Emma. (2020)

Director: Autumn de Wilde
Writer: Eleanor Catton
Based on: Jane Austen‘s novel
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Myra McFadyen, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Miranda Hart, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells, Oliver Chris
Seen on: 11.3.2020
[Here are my reviews of other Emma adaptations.]

Content Note: antiziganism

Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) 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) (Gemma Whelan) and Mr Weston (Rupert Graves) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.

Emma. was absolutely delightful. It has one of the best comedy ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, wonderfully lush production design and really captures the spirit of the book. I was very taken by it.

The film poster showing Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) and Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that this is the first feature film for de Wilde because it is not only stylistically so assured, but also has such a sense of rhythm, especially when it come to comedic timing (also props to editor Nick Emerson). But then again, she has directed many music videos, this is bound to have paid off.

In any case, the resulting film is not only a fest for the eyes (the wallpapers! the hair! the dresses! the colors!), but it is simply an excellent comedy where everybody in that cast is funny as fuck – down to the two footmen (Edward Davis, Angus Imrie) who don’t even need to say anything; the way they look at each other is enough.

Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) dancing with Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

But the film isn’t just funny (as if that wasn’t enough). It is also honestly emotional. Just as an example, Harriet’s devastation at the ball brought tears to my eyes at the same time as I had to laugh at Mr. Knightley coming to the rescue, accompanied by a soundtrack choir. Or Miss Bates’ (Miranda Hart) humiliation: it literally made me gasp, it burned like a slap. I also don’t think that any other adaptation of the novel was as clear about the smallness of Emma’s world as this one.

If there was one thing I’d change, it’s the use of the slur g**sy – it was an entirely unnecessary reproduction of antiziganism. The story would have worked just as well with another threat to Harriet. But other than that, I really loved the film.

Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) on a walk with Harriet Smith (Mia Goth).

Summarizing: great adaptation.

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