I must start by saying that Emma is my favourite novel, so my opinion will be harsh and somewhat biased, as it should be. I will say that great attention was paid to keeping much of the dialogue the same from the book, but most of the character development for many of the principle characters was cut out, leaving the film feeling empty much of the time. I sometimes wondered whether the director had read the book, as Mr Elton was portrayed as a man of no conversation and horrid manners, Frank was almost completely taken out of the story, as was Jane Fairfax, and Emma's relation to both of them was distant and odd. Mr Weston and Mrs Weston were also reduced in position-- the director forgot that Mrs Weston was supposed to be pregnant until the end of the film-- and much of the interaction between John Knightley and Isabella was completely forgotten; Isabella was even made to be a brusque and ridiculous character, which is completely opposite to how she should be. The matter of Harriet's character is the one which bothered me the most: the entire point of Harriet is to show a contrast between her and Emma, Emma being clever and handsome, and Harriet being extremely pretty but not clever at all. In the film, Harriet is made out to be plain, ignorant, and unattached to anyone. The same could be said for Jane Fairfax and Mr Elton, who both are given little dialogue and few scenes, making their places in the story seem more trivial than they should be. Much of Mr Knightley's character was altered-- I have no idea what the director meant by the nudity scene; it didn't bother me so much as it was entirely out of place-- and therefore many of his early scenes with Emma seemed forced. Mr Knightley is supposed to be charitable, well-loved by his neighbours, and the voice of reason for Emma's nonsense, and here he was abrupt and sometimes even rude. I was most disappointed in how Mr Woodhouse was treated. He is supposed to be an affectionate father, a valetudinarian of course, but here he is played as an unfeeling, detached, and spry gentleman. Mrs Elton and Mrs Weston were probably the most faithfully portrayed, but they were kept very much on the side until the Box Hill party. From that scene, the film picked up and became more enjoyable, but the pacing of the first few acts (or volumes) was uneven and poorly thought out: the ball at the Crown was probably the best scene, but it was ruined by the film completely dashing through Harriet's misfortune with the gypsies immediately afterward. Frank suddenly disappears from the story, and when his aunt dies, he never even comes back to make his apologies. There are many inconsistencies with the storytelling, which is really a shame, because the cinematography was superb. The art direction was absolutely gorgeous, which is what makes this interpretation all the more disappointing. There are some lovely scenes in this film, like Emma's contrition with Ms Bates, and Emma and Mr Knightley's scene together at the Crown, but they are spoilt by poor direction choices, culminating in an awkward proposal scene. All the wit and charm of the novel is replaced with haughtiness and vanity. Emma is a snob, but she's not personally vain, something the director should have known would she have read the book more closely. Emma is supposed to be lovable and redeemable, but here she spends half the film being horrid. It seemed as though the main actors did not like being there. With a little more thought into the scenes, better direction, and a cast that better reflected the characters as they are written, this could have been a wonderful film. If you want to see the best version of Emma, I highly recommend the 2009 BBC adaptation. It is absolutely perfect and will probably never be outdone.
30 people found this review helpful
A refreshing, streamlined take on Emma. If you expect character development across the cast --- a TV series may be more your speed. This is very much about Emma, her perspective, and her development. I enjoyed how Emma is allowed to be unpleasant at times and the picnic scene makes you cringe. She's allowed to be privileged and spoiled in a way that most leading ladies aren't. Self-interested even as she tries to be good and loving. Pettiness towards Jane Fairfax and misdirected/misused intellect, as criticized by Mr. Knightley. The music was also a prominent character in the film. Really reflecting what goes on in the film rather than being relegated to background music. The high level of creative collaboration was also evident in the costumes and set design. Delightful.
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I have seen the 1996 TV show (Kate Beckinsale), 1996 Film (Gwyneth Paltrow), 2009 TV show (Romola Garai). There are apparently 3 earlier renditions in 1972,'60, and '48. The 2010 Hindi adaptation "Aisha" (Sonam Kapoor) is an interesting take as well. Reviewers point out that this movie is still in theaters at this point, and that is why it is only for rent, and also why the price is currently high. Please do not rate an in theaters film on the price that they are making it available to you early and out of theaters due to a global epidemic. Just rate the film please. In the end, if you like this kind of film, and you would like to see more etc, it has to make money and do well, and this one came out at a very unfortunate time. When you come back in four months it will most likely be exactly what you are expecting for a purchase price, and out of theater rental price.
142 people found this review helpful