- Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth
- Eleanor Catton
- Autumn de Wilde
- PG (Canada, United States)
- Running Time
- 124 minutes
- Release Date
- March 6th, 2020
Period pieces are not for everyone. Suffice it to say that Emma, the third adaptation of the Jane Austen story of the same name (1995’s Clueless and 1996’s Emma) won’t be changing any minds though it doesn’t necessarily have to since they still they still hold considerable followings. When it comes to this film, it may not bring anything new to the table (for better or worse) but for the most part, it serves as an escape to a different and simpler time (unlike the one of today). However. that time is also very British which is also one of the genres’ most divisive elements. That particular accent and dialogue won’t be for everyone and therefore this style of humor won’t be for everyone (myself included). In the end, those looking for pretty scenery where pretty people with pretty costumes frolicking around while a pretty (albeit occasionally intrusive) score played in the background for slightly over 2 hours (a running time which couldn’t have been a touch shorter) will certainly not be disappointed as it does have its redeeming qualities.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Emma followed Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), a beautiful and affluent young woman with her finger on the pulse of her small town. She lived in a large estate with her father (Bill Nighy) and was the center of attention, entertaining herself by acting as a matchmaker for her friends. Her latest subject was her lower class friend Harriet Smith (Goth) for whom she held unrealistically high expectations for. However for whatever reason, things would never seem to work out as far as Emma’s plan for her was concerned. Nevertheless, Emma did not give up on Harriet while continuing to project her own expectations on her. Though she considered herself above mere attachments, she still had an eye on a man of her own, the wealthy Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) but this would be easier said than done since the game of love is a complicated one. Meanwhile, Emma was not above everyone (as much as she thought she was) as childhood friend (or maybe more) Mr. Knightley (Flynn) would routinely call her out for many of her questionable tactics.
While a large part of the humor is bound to go over the heads of many viewers, it’s hard to not be absorbed by the film’s beautiful world full of eccentric characters. Other than the film’s aforementioned technical prowess, the best part of Emma had to be the performances across the board. The film possess a certain charm to it which comes from the writing but also the performances and the great chemistry across the cast, including the countless side characters. Taylor-Joy was the clear standout as Emma as her charisma and screen presence, worthy of a character of the grandeur of Emma, made it hard to not look away and her accent was not that bad. Meanwhile, Flynn stood toe-to-toe with Taylor-Joy thanks to great chemistry and a powerful performance of his own as Mr. Knightley. Though the film would feature plenty of moments of brilliance by its supporting cast (Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Miranda Hart) they paled in comparison.
In the end, Emma was a decent escape that will surely get by on its surface charm for many while fans of Austen and period pieces should find plenty to enjoy.
*still courtesy of Focus Features*