I’m a Jane Austen Junkie. And I mean it in the worst way. I wish I could brag that I’ve read all her novels four times each, but truth be told, I haven’t read them all even once. I’ve made it through three: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. I’ve enjoyed them all immensely and will one day complete all six books. What makes me a junkie then? I will eagerly and expectantly watch every film version of these books gladly and on repeat. And I don’t feel ashamed one bit. Proof: Last Christmas, not only did I complete my collection, but I copied it (Shh!) for my sister. Did I include just one version of Emma? No no. One requires all three for whatever quirky and spirited protagonist you’re interested in viewing that night. I’ll break it down for your cinematic netflicking pleasure (What is the present tense form of netflix? Past tense: I netflicked it? Sounds too raunchy for my Miss Austen. tsk.) Just get them from your local library, it’s simpler and most likely closer and FREE and smells like old books and has happy, educated individuals who wear business casual called “Librarians!”
First of all, GO READ THE BOOK! Why not? Emma is a girl full of joie de vivre. Her favorite hobby is matchmaking with a track record of 1 out of 3. Not terrible odds. She can tete-a-tete with the rest of the boys and likes to do good unto others when it suits her liking. Honestly, Emma might be the character some people hate, but I adore her. She means well, and it takes a few social blunders for her learn the importance of being true to oneself, and allowing others to do the same. And it doesn’t hurt that Mr. Knightley is above and beyond a gentlemen, one of the best Austen created men for sure!
Side note, don’t you wonder why Jane Austen gave her romance worthy men names like Fitzwilliam, George, and Edmund? I always sigh at this fact. Then again, I’m kind of a Colonel Christopher Brandon girl, you know an older, well studied, worldly man devotes himself to the over passionate girl who takes long walks on the moors and reads poetry. *sigh, another post, another day…
If you are looking for the abridged, cinematic version, I feel it is my duty to break them down for you.
Released in 1996, this version of Emma stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the lead and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Though the version takes the most liberties I’ve seen, it still maintains the major plot points, only witnesses of said events may differ from the novel. You’ll find Paltrow’s version of Emma to be the most witty in the role, she uses facial expressions and adlibs a little providing a fun, entertaining banter between her and Northam. A charming addition to the cast in this version is Toni Collette as the makeover-of-a-lifetime friend, Harriet Smith. You will never see Collette in another role like this, it is amusing. Allan Cumming is an eerily creepy and smarmy Mr. Elton, the town vicar. And Ewan Macgregor plays Frank Churchill, and you won’t want to miss his wavy red locks of hair! Ha! A smaller standout role includes Juliet Stevenson as Mrs. Elton. I’m not so sure of the Jane Fairfax in this film, she seems too old and dressed too well for her character’s circumstances in the book. All in all, the costumes are simple and elegant, the acting quite good and humorous, if not a little exaggerated, but this was the version I grew up on, so if you want introductory Austen in under two hours, I recommend this film version.
Also released in 1996, I can’t say much for this TV version of Austen’s Emma starring Kate Beckinsale. I find her portrayal of Emma almost too doe-eyed and naive which makes me want to gag. If this version is your favorite, I’m sorry, but I recommend you try the third option and seek physician care if side effects from this film still occur. Mark Strong makes an odd and ugly appearance as Mr. Knightley in this film suffering from hair too boy band for my likes. Harriet Smith is played by Samantha Morton, a rare cameo, where performance is good, but her looks don’t seem true to the book. Harriet is supposed to be a great beauty, and I think they make Morton look rather plain. I’d give you something else about this film as I recently started watching it for the second time, but I can’t get past pouty old Kate Beckinsale. *Eject*
The newest version from 2009 is the best and truest tale of Austen’s classic. Starring Romola Garai in the first good role I’d say she’s done (I know, I know, I love me some Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights too, but it wasn’t exactly the SAG Awards now, was it?) Garai does an exceptional job of capturing Emma’s playful nature, combining the daydreams with the duties of a lady of the house. Jonny Lee Miller plays a believable older Mr. Knightley, and many of you who are Austen Junkies too will recognize Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton (he plays Edmund in BBC’s version of Mansfield Park!) The BBC 3 part edition is very congruent with the novel, and all of the characters are age appropriate and befitting their looks and mannerisms of the book. Most notably, I think you’ll enjoy Miss Bates played by Tamsin Grieg and Jane Fairfax played by Laura Pyper. And the Mr. Frank Churchill of this version is right up there with cads such as Willoughby! Do yourself a favor if you have a day off, and enjoy this version of Emma; it’s wonderful!
What’s your favorite Jane Austen book and why? Do you have a favorite film version? Why do you like it? And what Jane Austen character is your man of choice? No, I won’t accept Colin Firth, it must be based on the novel character, not a sexy English actor who jumps into a pond and comes out with his shirt clinging to his muscled chest. You can do better than just that. Movie night, anyone?