Emma is Douglas McGrath‘s adaptation of Jane Austen‘s novel, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, Alan Cumming, Toni Collette, Ewan McGregor, Greta Scacchi, Polly Walker, Sophie Thompson and Juliet Stevenson.
Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) (Greta Scacchi) and Mr Weston (James Cosmo) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Toni Collette). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Jeremy Northam), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Alan Cumming). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.
It’s been a while since I have seen this film and I think that memory has slightly exaggerated its awesomeness. Especially the script and Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t impress that much this time round as they did before. But it’s still a wonderful movie and does have the best Mr Knightley, hands down.
Douglas McGrath doesn’t stick very closely to the original novel, especially with the dialogues. And every change is actually pretty noticeable as he usually makes Emma a little more ridiculous or just a tad too cold. And Knightley doesn’t get to say the line (“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”). That’s just wrong. But other than that, the script is fine.
Gwyneth Paltrow was a little wooden, though and missed a certain spark from time to time. Toni Collette and Alan Cumming are both wonderful in their roles but neither is actually pretty enough – I mean, in the books it is emphasised several times that Elton is good-looking and that Harriet has a nice face and a pleasant personality, if nothing else. Polly Walker is a good Jane and Ewan McGregor is great as Frank Churchill – though his Frank is, at the same time, the character incarnation that I want to hit the most because he’s such an ass.
In any case, this movie still features my favorite versions of Mrs Elton (Juliet Stevenson), Miss Bates (Sophie Thompson) [though she got very strong competition in Tamsin Greig] and of course, Mr Knightley. I just want to lick Jeremy Northam all over in this movie. [Well, also in general. But especially in this film.]
And I liked the music by Rachel Portman, which is really nice and fits the film very well.
Summarising: If you only watch one Emma adaptation, make it Clueless. :P But of the more literal versions, it should be this one.