Saturday, January 20, 2007

Emma: Film (1996)

1996 - The year of two Emmas!
This is the last time for a while that I review a costume drama I don’t like. What can you say about the 1996 adaptation of Emma that is positive? It is a Jane Austen adaptation with a star studded cast. Obviously there is Gwyneth Paltrow playing the lead role with Jeremy Northam, Alan Cummings, Juliet Stevenson, Ewan McGregor to name a few. Juliet Stevenson makes for a wonderfully vacuous and vulgar Mrs Elton and the good performances are found in the cameo roles, for example Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates.

Emma is hideously glossy and the continuous soft focused lighting makes you think the characters all lived in a Hovis advert. Highbury is very clean – the roads don’t appear to have mud or horse shit – and it never rains in this twee corner of southern England. Even the poor peasants are clean, only the gypsies are dirty and they look like road protestors. The main focus is on Emma as a match maker and relationship tangles, not her snobbery or boredom. Mr Knightley is not harsh on Emma as much as vexed and the whole production plays the novel as comedic but fails to be humourous. The story is occasionally told through thoughts in Emma’s head, presumably just in case we failed to get Paltrow’s performance, which unfortunately means we have to hear more of Paltrow’s bizarre nasal whine (I think it is meant to be RP English). Ewan McGregor has the most ridiculous hair cut and is far more sexy as a Jedi (in my opinion) and I’m afraid Northam’s breeches are just not tight enough for me.

Silly facts

The music played at the dance at the end of the ball is the same as the infamous Darcy and Lizzie dance-conversation in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Mrs Bates and Miss Bates are played by real-life mother and daughter Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson, who are also related to Emma Thompson (screenwriter and star of the infinitely superior Sense and Sensibility).

Images courtesy of Miramax
Directed by Douglas McGrath
Written by Jane Austen (novel), Douglas McGrath (screenplay)
Gwyneth Paltrow – Emma Woodhouse
Alan Cumming – Mr. Elton
Jeremy Northam – Mr. Knightley
Toni Collette – Harriet Smith
Polly Walker – Jane Fairfax
Ewan McGregor – Frank Churchill

Buy in UK

Buy in US


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I must agree with your assessment of the abnormally gorgeous Highbury, as well as Paltrow's voice and MacGregor's hair, among other things (such as the complete lack of rain), I still enjoyed this as I watched it on cable this AM. However, I would prefere "Sense & Sensibility" or better yet, it's modern adaptation, "Clueless", with the adorable Alicia Silverstone in Emma's role!

9:31 AM  

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