MOVIE REVIEW: Emma still the heroine who’s hard to like
Some costume drama fans found fault with the recent Little Women. Primarily for taking too many modern liberties with the impeccable book from which it was drawn.Little Women
These same persnickety types will warmly embrace Emma for its more traditional tendencies in adapting the time-honoured novel by Jane Austen.
The author herself described the young, headstrong and haughty Emma as "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."
The new movie, to its credit, sticks with the Austen blueprint for the character, not going out of its way to make her all that endearing.
At least not until she has earned an audience's collective affection (a mistake made by the last notable screen rendition starring Gwyneth Paltrow back in the day).
Anya Taylor-Joy does very well in the title role, a capriciously meddlesome young matchmaker who will burn and rebuild many romantic bridges throughout Austen's characteristically busy tale.
As a woman of considerable means, Taylor-Joy's Emma is in no particular hurry to hitch her destiny (and relinquish control of a large fortune) to that of a man.
However, not for one moment does that mean Emma is above accelerating, slowing or redirecting the fates of anyone who will let her.
Emma's good friend, the highly impressionable Harriet (played by Mia Goth), is the first to learn her mentor's advice may not be the wisest counsel on offer. She will by no means be the last.
With Emma's happily hypochondriac father Mr Woodhouse (a wonderful Bill Nighy) taking ridiculously early measures against every imaginable ailment, she has all the time in the world to indulge her calling as a 19th century influencer.
(The thought of what havoc Emma Woodhouse could wreak with an Instagram account is a frightening one.)
The movie goes big with the frilly bonnets, hooped dresses and starched collars, and is a small delight to marvel at for its attractive wardrobe work alone.
Same goes for a frame-filling production design, which effortlessly transports us into the Austen universe.
Sure, it doesn't seem much, but the whole thing feels so right once each member of an accomplished ensemble cast also avails themselves of an opportunity to make their presence felt.
The standout supporting player is Johnny Flynn as the one character prepared to call out Emma for butting in when she should be stepping back.
Flynn's intuitive read of the sardonic neighbour Mr Knightley keeps the movie grounded when it might have got a little too high on its own supplies of the pretty and the flitty.
EMMA (PG)EMMA (PG)
Director: Autumn de Wilde (feature debut)Director:
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Johnny Flynn, Callum Turner.Starring:
Reconnected to Austen's powersReconnected to Austen's powersReconnected to Austen's powers