Opening 5 Mar 2020
Not yet twenty-one, nevertheless confident of mindset and means, Miss Emma Woodhouse’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) course is, for the present, set: the dutiful daughter commands Papa’s (Bill Nighy) heart and hearth and has the village at her feet. To alleviate tiresomeness, Emma dabbles in matchmaking that befuddled Papa, preoccupied with the manor’s drafts, overlooks, whereas good friend and neighbor Knightly (Johnny Flynn) easily piques Emma. Currently, shy Harriet (Mia Goth) is the recipient of Emma’s attentions. Finding Harriet’s choice (Connor Swindells) beneath consideration, Emma sets about instigating meetings with her favorite. Then, poor Miss Bates’ (Miranda Hart) niece Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) arrives; equally of meager means, Jane’s talents test Emma’s patience. Particularly when Mr. Churchill (Callum Turner) bursts upon the scene; somewhat dovetailing with Emma’s maddening meddling that brings forth unpredicted, and unappreciated results. Unable to stand by silently, Knightly’s perceptive appraisal ruffles Emma’s feathers. What hitherto Emma easily disregarded, ensuing incidents nonetheless force departures from the norm.
Director Autumn de Wilde adds a woman’s touch to Jane Austin’s 1815 same-titled tongue-in-cheek classic about England’s stuffy upper crust. Contemporizing de Wilde’s incarnation of Emma is a scene with a quick, (non-female) “full bloom” buttocks shot, its ladies’ costumes (Alexandra Byrne) and production design (Kave Quinn), and the heroine’s assured, unapologetic approach to life. Taylor-Joy and Flynn are a joy to behold as well as the accomplished supporting cast. Christopher Blauvelt’s cinematography amplifies ambience, e.g., filming in available (candle) light. Curiously though, Nick Emerson’s editing pace follows the narrative’s slow passing seasons, instead of Austin’s amusingly satiric humor embedded in the discourses. As well, the string of red-cloaked schoolgirls coming/going/coming without any context, often accompanied by too-perky music (David Schweitzer, Isobel Waller-Bridge), detracts from Emma.’s potential. Nevertheless, de Wilde’s version of Jane Austin’s comedy-drama is easy to watch entertainment. (Marinell Haegelin)