For my money “Emma” is just about the best movie I’ve seen this year, though that of course comes with bountiful caveats. We basically lost the second quarter of the movie year; it’s strange to think that right now we’d normally be hip-deep in superhero flicks and bald-headed surly protagonists.
Personally I’m enjoying this period of indulging in smaller flicks and streaming movies I’d normally never get to. In this space, “Emma” sits quite comfortably as a ravishingly good adaption of Jane Austen’s 1800s novel.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Emma Woodhouse -- “handsome, clever and rich,” in Austen’s iconic opening lines. She is the daughter of a wealthy widower (Bill Nighy) who eschews socializing, permitting only the friendship of their neighbor, George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), who comes round to argue good-naturedly with Emma.
Her main occupation is as match-maker to the local gentility, encouraging assignations and declarations of love. Conspicuously, she bats such things for herself aside.
Various romantic intrigues develop and abate through the course of the story. Emma pushes her friend, Harriet (Mia Goth), toward their social climbing vicar (Josh O’Connor), despite the poor thing being an orphan with no means. Meanwhile, the chap who adores Harriet, Robert Martin (Conor Swindells), is shunted aside.
Later Frank Churchill (Callum Tunrer) shows up making quite a fuss in the local society, dashing and handsome, and Emma finds herself pushed and pulled in much the same way she has done to others. She’s jealous of Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson), another mysterious late character to enter the story.
Directed by Autumn de Wilde from a screenplay by Eleanor Catton, “Emma” is a colorful, vibrant rendition filled with snappy dialogue and barely restrained emotions. It’s a fun film to watch with deeper meanings underneath worth pondering.
Bonus features are quite splendid, anchored by a feature-length commentary track by de Wilde, Catton and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt. There are also deleted scenes, a gag reel and the following documentary shorts:
- A Playful Tease -- interviews with the cast.
- Crafting a Colorful World -- locations, costumes and set dressings.
- The Autumn Gaze -- The director’s filmmaking process and photographic eye.