Funny, Witty, and Ridiculous — Emma.

By: Noemi Elliott

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every successful movie has a well-written screenplay, superior sets and costumes, and well-thought-out casting choices.

I know, like any Jane Austen fan, that I could not resist the temptation of re-working the opening line of Pride and Prejudice. As I have already established myself as a fan of Austen’s work, I will admit that I had high expectations before watching Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 film adaptation of Emma, another beloved Austen classic. I am happy to acknowledge that the movie exceeded my high expectations, receiving a five out of five-star rating.

Emma. closely resembled the text in both the dialogue and storyline. It is challenging to adapt a 500-page book into a mere two hours, but de Wilde successfully captured the essence of the novel. While dramatization occurs in most adaptations (sorry, Matthew MacFadyen’s Mr. Darcy in the rain), Emma. minimized said dramatization in limiting the inclusion of lines which were not in the book. Any slight change made was purposeful, adding to the overall witty nature of the movie. For example, there is a scene where one of the characters incorrectly pronounces the word “innocence” in the line “man’s great innocence.” In response, Mr Woodhouse points out this inaccuracy in disgust, hence providing a moment where I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous nature of it.

The sets were another remarkable aspect of the movie, supporting my claim for the movie’s five-star rating. Utilizing bright colours on the wallpaper and furniture within each room, de Wilde creates beautiful sets that are hard to draw one’s eye away from. Similarly, the costumes employ striking colors. Harriet Smith marches with her fellow boarding girls in bright red coats, contrasting the darker background and scenery. Costumes are a signifier of the class difference between characters. In one scene, both Emma and her friend Harriet wear identical coats, differentiating only in that Emma’s yellow coat’s design is more intricate than Harriet’s brown one.

While I often find movies composed of a cast of new, unfamiliar faces hard to appreciate, I think the casting choices were very thoughtful. Emma Woodhouse is known for her wit, Mr. Woodhouse for fragility, Harriet Smith for her cluelessness, Mrs. Elton for her vanity and so on. Each individual characters’ portrayal is a delightfully accurate reflection of the text. Additionally, when I read the book, I noted there is a lot of internal dialogue which is difficult to convey in a movie. Yet, in Anya Taylor- Joy’s portrayal of Emma, I could always understand the character’s intentions and schemes. Yes, I refer to Emma’s “matchmaking” as a scheme, as it does not always pan out as she intends…

Overall, Emma. is a wonderful midsummer eat- a- box- of- buttery- popcorn- because- you- can’t- get- your- eyes- away- from- the- screen type of five-star movie. Playing homage to one of my favorite Austen novels while combining beautiful sets and casting, Emma. joins the ranks of my favorite Austen adaptations. Yes, there are at least three adaptations within the last 25 years that are worth watching, but de Wilde brings every fault within each character to life while making them endearing.

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