“Emma.” Is a Remake Worth Watching
Jordan Gablaski, Staff Writer
If you have ever read any of my other reviews, you know how I feel about remakes… but I guess I should change the wording and say that I dislike unnecessary remakes that recreate movies which were already great to begin with. Granted, I haven’t seen the cinematic version of “Emma” starring Gwyneth Paltrow from 1996, but I think I will make a point to now just so I can make a well-informed comparison.
Anyway…. “Emma.” was a thoroughly enjoyable and faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. Austen has been one of my all-time favorite authors since I was introduced to her work in my freshman year of college. I took a course which was exclusively Austen, and it remains one of the best classes that I have had as an undergrad. I probably would not have been drawn to the theater for this movie if it were not for that class, but one does not have to have read the novel in order to enjoy the movie.
“Emma.” follows the romantic mishaps of a young, wealthy woman in her 20’s named Emma Woodhouse. Emma lives with her father in a large estate, and, as the first lines of the book and film tell us, she has had “very little to distress or vex her.” Emma is privileged and vain, she is pretentious and condescending, but she decides to spend her time matchmaking, a pastime which she believes herself to excel at. But, when Emma meets Harriet Smith, a boarding school student of unclaimed parentage, her meddling in other people’s love lives leads to months of emotional confusion involving a large cast of eccentric characters. Emma’s meddling does
make for some comedy, and some heartbreak, but leads Emma to realize that she does not know nearly as much about romance as she thought.
A major factor to the film’s success was most definitely the casting choices and acting skill. Emma herself, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, was absolutely perfect, from her facial expressions to the way she held her body and the way she spoke. Her slightest movement evoked privilege, wealth and arrogance, especially the purse of her lips. There were moments where the camera would allow the audience to read Emma’s expressions, which were most times indications of her snobbish nature, but also let us see exactly what she was thinking. Mr. Elton (Callum Turner) was wonderfully slimy and Harriet (Mia Goth) very childish and giddy. And Ms. Bates! Watching Miranda Hart as Ms. Bates was like seeing Austen’s words come to life.
I haven’t read the book in almost four years, but I was happy to see that there did not seem to be any major plot points left out of the movie. The narrative was a bit slow in spots but told a cohesive story and was most definitely worth it. The movie was funny, the sense of humor quite quirky and the score very fitting. Much of the comedy comes from seeing just how ridiculous the lifestyle was for those who were lucky enough to be wealthy and did not have to worry about inheritance. From having servants help them put their clothes on, to fulfilling their every trifling need, you have to chuckle or else you might be disgusted by how lazy they are and how boring it all seems. You might just understand why Emma turned to meddling in love lives; what else was there to do? I cannot say enough about how much I loved the casting choices they made, even though I was unfamiliar with some of the actors, they just embodied the roles so well.
I was thoroughly impressed with how faithful “Emma.” stayed to the source; truly worthy of the name Austen, it brought her words to life honorably. It won’t be for everyone because it
was not modernized in any way- from the dress, to the language to the customs, but it was authentic Austen and for those who like period pieces, it will not disappoint. That being said, it makes itself largely accessible through the timeless themes that the movie “Clueless” recognized in 1995. As a loose interpretation of “Emma,” it’s really fun for those who have seen and loved “Clueless” to see where the similarities lie: from the attractive yet shallow ‘Elton’ character, to the brotherly mentor character that the Emma/Cher end up falling for. Overall, it was really satisfying to see Emma evolve over the course of the film, though she retains her identity as a lovable rich girl.
I can’t help but wonder what my Austen professor will think….
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Jordan is an English Major in the Class of 2020