I’ve certainly read Jane Austin’s works, including Pride and Prejudice. In addition, I love history, especially historical romance. So I was intrigued by Emma even though this is one of Austin’s works that I have not read. Emma is perfectly portrayed, a character that manipulates everyone around her, simply for her own enjoyment but intriguing. In addition, the secondary characters are interesting and engaging, in particular, the character of Mr. Knightly and Bill Nighy as Emma’s father steals every scene.
Directed by Autumn de Wilde and written by Eleanor Catton. It is based on the 1815 novel of the same name by Jane Austen and is about a young woman, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) who lives in Regency-era England and finds occupation in matchmaking, most times misguided and meddlesome, in the lives of her family and friends. Along the way, she discovers that her efforts are more harmful than expected. While she is warned by her neighbor and family friend, George Knightly (Johnny Flynn), it is only when her actions impact her friendship with him, that she learns a lesson. The film also stars Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy as Emma’s father.
Part of what makes the film so charming is that the characters are so perfectly Austin characters. Emma, who is probably the most manipulative and certainly is not there for the audience to love, is completely authentic to her personality. While she does try to matchmake and maneuver people, it is for what she believes is in their best interests. She is not always correct but the manipulations are never just about her own desires. She wishes for others to be happy, especially her friend Harriet, and while her efforts do misfire, it is never to gain herself anything personally. She is not seeking romance for herself. She is content to stay home and be with her father. It is only along the way that she discovers love and it is in that moment, that she is most endearing and completely authentic.
It is the multitude of other characters, though, that makes this movie for me. Johnny Flynn is utterly captivating as George Knightly, especially when he falls in love and falls hard. His reactions and behavior are what make the movie so romantic and sweet. Mia Goth as Harriet is sweet and kind, completely willing to listen to her friend Emma and eventually, figures out exactly what she needs. Miranda Hart as Miss Bates is the true turning point for Emma, both the film and the character. But it is Bill Nighy who manages to steal every scene he’s in, even without words, comedically and as an actor, and his performance sweeps this film into enchantment.
One of the other features that sell this movie for me is the beautiful nuances to the costumes, dances, and music. Each costume is well matched to the era and each piece of music meshes with the scenes and the actions of the characters. The depiction of the historical era is brought to beauty by the choreography and the songs.
Because the characters are the strongest element to the movie, it is fair to say that the performances are what make this movie stand out. Bill Nighy is brilliantly funny, even without words. Johnny Flynn is complete perfection in his portrayal of George Knightly. He is charming, even when his character is angry with Emma. Anya Taylor-Joy is true to her character, portraying Emma as strong, manipulative but ultimately, caring. Her performance makes the character authentic and real. The entire cast is funny and engaging.
If there is one critique, it’s that this is most suited to Austin fans. If you aren’t a fan of that particular type of romance, you may not find it as interesting. And because it is a romantic comedy, most of the actions in the movie are very predictable. Even without having read the book, I knew almost every move Emma would make and how the film would end. If you don’t like that genre or style, that could make the film less appealing.
Still, Austin fans will really love this movie. It is a beautiful depiction, both true to the characters and the era with great music, dancing, and costumes. The acting is witty, evoking both the comedy and romance of Austin’s work and the actors make you fall in love with them. If you like romance and comedy, this is a great date night movie.
Rating: 4 out of 5 matches.