I finished reading Jane Austen’s Emma just in time to watch its latest film adaptation and I can confirm they are both wonderful. What struck me most throughout this classic is that it didn’t at all feel like a book that’s 200 years old. This translated seamlessly onto the big screen. While much of the dialogue is lifted straight from the book, Autumn de Wilde injects the film with a modern spirit making the story as hilarious and relatable as ever.
Emma Woodhouse deems herself an excellent matchmaker, though she herself does not plan on marrying. But as she continues to meddle in her friends’ relationship, she causes confusion and misunderstandings throughout the village, and she just may be overlooking a true love of her own.
Initially, I was torn between enjoying Emma’s character and finding her irritatingly arrogant. However, I came to love the fact that she isn’t perfect, far from it at that. She’s naïve, meddlesome, and doesn’t give a second thought to the consequences of her persistent interfering. But then again, she is a twenty-one-year-old woman secluded in her Hartfield bubble with only her hypochondriac father for company; cut her some slack and let her play cupid.
Austen deftly depicts the minutiae of aristocratic routines, obligations, and idle life while also revealing characters through their faults. From Miss Bates and her silly, relentless chatter, to Mrs Elton who may just be the most conceited, passive-aggressive antagonist I have ever encountered, Austen’s characters are aggravating. Nonetheless, as in the real world, we recognise their flaws and come to accept their redeeming qualities. Besides, their imperfections only resulted in a more amusing novel: the love complications are numerous, the humour is excellent, and the writing is as wonderful and witty as ever. Austen’s characters truly live in another world. Her intricate, satirical portrayal of the social mores and class system of her time makes me despair the thought of being a “lady” with “prospects” in early 19th century England.
Wilde’s rendition was perfect. While recent adaptations such as Greta Gerwig’s unforgettable Little Women played with their source material’s chronology, Emma unfolds just as Austen told it 200-years ago. Nonetheless, it felt just as refreshing. I think this is partly down to the film’s irresistible colour palette which bursts with lavish pastels, as well as their outfits that are eccentric yet still quintessential silver-spoon attire.
I thought Anya Taylor-Joy played Emma perfectly. She nails her portrayal of the vain, manipulative snob while still having her charming moments. Her valetudinarian father, played by Bill Nighy, who constantly frets about draughts and the cold was hilarious. Just as amusing was Miranda who portrays the chatterbox spinster Miss Bates. Although, my heart ached for her when Emma delivered one of the most cutting lines of dialogue ever:
Overall, while Anne Elliot is still my favourite Austen heroine, having read the book and watched the film, I think Mr Knightly – gallant, sensible, intelligent – might have stolen the top spot for my favourite Austen love interest (sorry, Mr Darcy).
Film Rating: ★★★★.5
Have you read Jane Austen’s Emma or seen the film yet?
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: A book with a main character in their 20s.
Check out the classics I read last year!