I’m so glad I got to see Emma. while it was still in theaters, whilst theaters were still a thing! Spoiler: I adored it, and felt that except for the unfortunate nosebleed scene, I would not have changed a thing. Now that the movie is streaming, we can ALL see it from the oh-so-familiar confines, er, comforts of home. Except it costs $20 to stream, and some folk are wondering if it is quite worth it. Considering movies are $11 each in the theaters these days, is it not amiable to think that two people or more watching can actually SAVE money by streaming it for $20? In any event, I think it’s worth it. Every penny of the $20. Why? Read on, fair and frugal friends. And then tell me if you agree!
- My husband says “Badly Done, Emma,” would be a smashing name for an all-girl rock band. It’s also suitable as a rebuke for our girl Emma Woodhouse, who does, in fact, do many things badly until she sees the light. I know Emma was written by our dearly loved Jane Austen as a character who would make many self-centered messes–Jane notoriously commented that she was “going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” But somehow, Anya Taylor-Joy gives us a heroine who is not so much a mean girl but who sometimes tries meanness on as a kind of costume, and finds it doesn’t really fit. The love she has for her father, for example, and for her former governess shimmers through even her worst moments, and I found myself understanding her, and even feeling a bit sorry for her. Sure, she behaves, well, BADLY, snobbishly and in a self-absorbed manner, but she basically means well. She’s essentially warm-hearted even when she is giving in to her worst impulses. Consider this: Even though Emma dismissed that nice farmer Mr. Martin as not being a good enough match for her friend Harriet, a lesser, snobbier girl would never have cared about lowly Harriet’s well being in the first place.
2. True confessions–I get her on the matchmaking thing. What could be more fun than dreaming up ways to fling potential lovebirds in one another’s path? It can get out of hand, however. I was way past 20, Emma’s age, when I learned my lesson the hard way. You can try and set people up, but make your motive be to help them find each other, and not for the sheer, fizzy, intoxicating, goddess-like feeling of being a Yenta (although, I do have a t-shirt that says “Yenta” on it, a gift from a certain married couple …) In short: Matchmaking can’t be solely for one’s entertainment, because that shizzle can blow up in your face, as it did in Emma’s.
3. And then again, every motive is mixed, and so are Emma’s. Anya Taylor Joy conveys that oh-so-human blend of the good, the bad, and the ugly (poor Miss Bates).
4. I love a redemptive arc, and Emma does redeem herself when she digs deep and tries to make it up to Miss Bates in her own way. Her meanness weighs on her in a manner that suggests her better nature. A true mean girl (looking at you, Josie Pye and Nellie Olson) wouldn’t be bothered with any uncomfortable emotions over a little thing like a cruel snub. Emma can hardly live with herself over what she said to Miss Bates, and drags her sorry, skinny behind to make amends. Goodly done, Emma!
5. And oh, Miss Bates, you lamb, you. Miranda Hart’s dithery performance as the sweet, babbling Miss Bates, annoying and lovable at once, will touch your heart at the moment when she understands–and so do you– how Emma has hurt her terribly at the Box Hill picnic. It’s minor characters like Miss Bates, superbly cast, that elevate this movie. Characters such as …
6. Mr. Elton, a cocky windbag of a vicar, who, terrifyingly, is the spiritual leader of the village. In Josh O’ Connor’s hands, there are sparks of vulnerability and humanity beneath Mr. Elton’s almost unbearably self-centered veneer. We also love him as Larry on The Durrells Go to Corfu, and as Marius in the latest PBS Les Miserables.
7. Bill Nighy, as Mr. Woodhouse, is everything that is tart and wry and savory and fantastic about Jane Austen’s quirky sidekick characters. The man is a hootenanny and a half as Emma’s rich, hypochondriac father. Is it drafty in the drawing-room, or is it just him? It’s just him, but the servants must be summoned anyway to set up screens near the fire to keep out any frisson of chill. Nighy steals every scene as the oddball society scion who seems like a cracked cracker but is actually wiser than most. Like his daughter, Mr. Woodhouse appears to be shallow and self-absorbed, but he has hidden depths. His love for his girl is as real as that delectable, pink Victorian Sponge Cake in one of the many mouthwatering food scenes. A finer Mr. Woodhouse is unimaginable to me.
8. Speaking of decadent and delectable, the colors of this movie made me so happy. Directed by music video director Autumn De Wilde, the movie was shot in glorious pinks, yellows, mint greens, and aqua blues–macaron colors good enough to eat.
9. More true confessions: I uttered the words “Mr. Darcy, who?” to my husband on the way out of the theater. Of course, I was trying to be mirthful. But you guys, Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightly is SOMETHING. He’s part rogue, part sweetie, and all winning. You may not collapse to the floor in a dead faint as you did when Darcy crooned, “You have bewitched me, body and soul,” or flutter madly as when Hugh Grant’s Edward Ferrars stammered “My heart … is yours” to a gobsmacked Emma Thompson, but you will be, erm, moved. To give Jane Austen the credit due her, George Knightly is a lovely guy. He cares deeply about those around him, and not just those who can serve his needs. His interest in his tenant farmer’s life shows his basic compassion and lack of conceit. He’s not stuffy, and he’s not morose like our dear Mr. Darcy (sorry, Fitzwilliam. It had to be said). He’s just a boy in a puffy shirtwaist (or nothing at all, as is the case!), standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him. And also asking her if she could stop being such a ninny and grow up a little. That’s all he asks. Plus–BONUS: Flynn is a real-life musician, and sings both during the movie and after. Don’t miss his original folk song “Queen Bee” as the credits roll.
10. The chemistry between Emma and Mr. Knightly is worth the cost of the DVD or streaming all on its own. They barely touched but their alchemy was sizzling. It went from a certain mild but noticeable undercurrent to hissing and spitting of embers by the end. Yup. Trust me. Things get mighty heated!
Well? What do you think? Do you agree with my evaluation? How does this treatment compare to others, especially the 90’s version starring a pre-candle Gwyneth Paltrow?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, joys, and concerns!