Though the plan was to see this in theaters, as is true of any Austen adaptation, my plans didn’t work out. Emma. (2020) has lots of versions but this latest one takes a much different approach.
Emma. (2020) Film Review
For the entire sum of her 21 years of life, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) has little care in the world. She’s wealthy and pretty and quite the apple of her father’s eye. Her neighbor and sister’s brother in law, George Knightley (Johnny Flynn, Vanity Fair) likes to challenge Emma and together they are never far from a new sparring match. Cause for further disagreement arrives when Emma tries to match up her new friend, Harriet (Mia Goth) with a most unsuitable match. Thus begins the story of Emma Woodhouse.
Told form many different storytellers, Austen’s “satire” novel has been produced many a time. 2020 seemed the year to color the feisty heroine in a new way, and oh boy,is this ever a new canvas to color. Between the color palette that frames this story and its fresh faced case, it certainly has a unique viewer experience, and look.
Surface level, this version is quite entertaining – I did laugh, a lot. That said, this is not the nostalgic version we are accustomed to. In fact, not only is this true, but here, we see an adaptation that operates as a straight up comedy. While this means there are lots of laughs, the usually lovely love story suffers.
The romance of Knightley and Emma is always one of my favorites, but we don’t see its beauty with exception to one sequence that is stunning. Everything else just… fails in regards to their story. Here’s my thought on different ways to tell a story when we see something made and re-made so many times. The truth is, I do admire the desire of a creative to re-tell a story in a way we haven’t seen it, and this is apparent in Autumn Wilde’s vision.
From the gender swap piano scene to “enough said” title statement, and the “wild” sense of color and music, this one does stand out. But in this creative quest to be different, we also lose a lot of what makes Emma, Emma. For instance, the one “big” romantic moment we always anticipate as each script builds is absent. There’s something to be said for eliminating what makes a story the nostalgic piece of cinema we still love to see, even after all of its many variations.
The cast isn’t bad and also includes Miranda Hart (Call the Midwife); Bill Nighy; Rupert Graves; and Josh O’Conner (The Durrells). The one thing I will say about Anya’s portrayal of this titular character is that while she doesn’t play her “wrong,” I do think she doesn’t strike the right balance between being teachable, as in wanting to learn, and being a bit of a “snob.” Still, as I reference earlier, to make up for some flaws, there is the dance sequence and its aftereffect, which is all I can say for fear of spoiling the moment. Just trust me, it’s a good sequence. Watch, and then (please) come back and chat up Emma. (2020) and all its good, bad and adorable.
(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)
‘Emma.’ (2020): This is the Comedy without All the Romance. A review of the Autumn Wilde adaptation of the Austen classic. #EmmaMovie #Emma #JaneAusten #Romance #PeriodDrama Click To Tweet
Content: There are two brief instances of nudity [one full backside male] and perhaps a minor innuendo. This one rates PG.