Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Emma (2009)

I was excited to hear that there was going to be another screen adaptation of one of Jane Austen's novels. When I found out that it was to air on Masterpiece Theatre, I was looking forward to it. I told my mom about it, and we sat down each Sunday that it aired to watch it. We very much enjoyed it; here is my review.

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich" is a woman living in the English town of Highbury with her father. After making a match that lead to the marriage of her governness, Miss Taylor (Johdi May), and Mr. Weston, Emma (Ramola Garai) had fancied herself to have a knack for matchmaking. She is determined to make a match between Mr. Elton, the local vicar, and Harriet Smith, much to the chagrin of her father (Michael Gambon) and her brother-in-law, Mr. Knightly (Johnny Lee Miller).

The acting was well done, but I did have a couple of concerns. Concerning Emma, I thought that they should have casted a younger actress to play her, but I grew to like Ramola Garai in that role. Towards the beginning, I thought that her acting was a little annoying, but that's the way that Emma is supposed to be. The same thing happened when I read the book: I thought Emma's behavior was a little irritating because she involved herself too much. Overall, I did like Ramola Garai's performance as Emma.

Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightly
Johnny Lee Miller was a great Mr. Knightly. I thought that he was accurate to the novel. He acted as a guiding influence on Emma should act: trying to correct her wrongs, trying to tell her that her plans might not work out.. He also delivered some sarcastic lines really well. There were also times where he was absolutely frustrated with Emma, and he conveyed his frustration quite well.
Christina Cole, I thought, was a little too young to play Mrs. Elton; I imagined Mrs. Elton to be a little bit older, maybe closer to thirty, but here she looked like she was about twenty five tops. I also thought that she could have been a little bit louder to illustrate Mrs. Elton's boastful nature. It is interesting to find Christina Cole in the role of Mrs. Elton: she seems to play similar roles in the movies that she acts in. I remember her in What a Girl Wants as the "catty" Clarissa Payne, and here she plays an equally "catty" Mrs. Elton.

BBC does another great job again with scenery. The country side is lush and green. The colors are absolutely vibrant! Scenes mostly take place in the country, whether inside the manor houses, cottages, or outside, but some scenes also occur in London, where Emma's sister, Isabella, lives with her husband and children. While there were no scenes in the novel that took place in London, London is still talked about, but we can't always rely on words to visualize what something looks like. The scenes in London allow the viewer to see what was going on outside of Highbury.

Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith and Romola Garai as Emma
There are some very nice costumes in this production of Emma. I liked how Harriet Smith's dresses were very similar to Emma's. It shows how much of an influence Emma has on Harriet. While Jane Austen doesn't make any remarks on Harriet wearing the same clothes as Emma, it is not unbelievable that Harriet would do something like that. She would take Emma's advice on everything, even possibly clothes.

Emma's clothes were very nice. Some of them might not be my favorite, but I did like them. I haven't seen the dresses that she has with the white, long sleeve dress under a "jumper" (for lack of a better term) before in a period drama, but they were an interesting addition.  Her ball gown did not really strike me very much as some of her other outfits, but overall her clothes were nice.

The soundtrack for Emma has some bouncy songs and some more serious songs. Included in the CD is my favorite dance number, The Ships Cook. Also included is the Last Dance song (where Emma and Mr. Knightly dance), but the first dance number is sadly not included. The theme song is absolutely wonderful! It really expresses the overall theme of Emma: a lighthearted story. There are some more serious tones to some of the songs for appropriate moments, but most of the songs I would say have an up-lifting tone to them.

Overall: 4/5 4.5/5
I would recommend this to anyone of any age. It's very family friendly and fun to watch. Some of the body language and dialogue were modernized a little, and though usually when writers do this to classics, the movie is not as good as it could be, this did not really affect the quality of Emma. Readers of Emma might be sorry that some scenes that were in the book were not included in this adaptation, but overall it's a very good version. Because of the length, the story has a chance to be told more fully than previous versions.

Emma is available on DVD and runs for about 4 hours. It has four episodes on two disks.


  1. I LOVE this movie! It's too wonderful for words. And the soundtracks...oh. Just perfect. I'm hoping to get it for C-mas, though I did record the theme and the dances using my Mp3 player straight from the movie. I really LOVE Mr. Knightley and Emma's dance...there are few pieces of music that really give me goosebumps, but that's one. (-: It's my absolute favorite dance music from any film ever. (-: Can you tell I really like this movie? (-;

  2. Charity, I loved that comment. Made me laugh. And I agree!!!

    Well, Elegance of Fashion, since I just did my Emma movie post, I just had to 'come over' to your blog and see what you said (and what you rated it). :)

    Oh! Rating it! I totally forgot about doing that. Hmm....

    You only had one comment, so I just had to leave one. :)


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