Emma: A Dazzling Spin of Romance
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Note: Before my brief hiatus, my last post was about the Oscar nominations and my typical displeasure with the Academy’s choices. However, the Oscars were, for once, not a total disappointment (if Little Women would have won Best Adapted Screenplay over Jojo Rabbit then it would have been a near perfect night). I hoped and intimated that Parasite should win Best International Film and Best Picture and would you look at that? It also won Best Directing for Bong Joon-ho and Best Original Screenplay. History was made and the actual best picture won as well as the most deserving person. Long live Director Bong. Also, the day before the Oscars, Film Independent hosted their annual Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica where many great low-budget indie films overlooked by the Academy usually get their due. This included Best Actor for Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Best Directing for the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems), Best First Feature for Olivia Wilde with Booksmart and Best Feature for the much deserving and wonderful The Farewell directed by Lulu Wang. This February was a memorable and joyous cap to the awards season and one that will not be forgotten.
My first viewing of a 2020 release belongs to an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel: Emma. It was between this or The Call of the Wild, another adaptation of a classic novel currently in theaters. My favorite novel, in fact. But music video director Autumn de Wilde’s feature debut caught my fancy more than Harrison Ford’s unnecessary John Thornton backstory with a CGI Buck. But hey, I’ll get to it when I see it. Harrison Ford is 77 years old, can literally do whatever he wants, and chose to tickle the belly of a grown man in a computer-generated suit acting like a dog. I admire that. So yes, I will eventually see it. For now, however, I bid adieu to the Yukon and join the indulgent characters of Jane Austen’s Emma. I have not read the novel so I went in knowing little about Emma Woodhouse and the romantic twists in the fictional Highbury of early 19th century England.
I was impressed and delighted. What I loved about Emma. (yes, there’s a period in the title because for Ms. Woodhouse, it usually ends there) is the stakes. They aren’t very high. It’s only if and when any of these people will make a decision on who to love and be loved by. Even that’s not so serious because it’s just too easy. Even for the less affluent- here have some romance! It’s the best sensation of melodrama. I love it. I’m not sure if this is how the novel is but for the film, it works. Sure, that begs the question of why you should watch it. Well, because just look at it. It’s a beautiful, colorful film. From the fondant food to the wonderful decor, costumes, and extravagant frames, this movie is teeming with eye-candy. Doesn’t hurt that even the people are attractive.
This isn’t saying the film is wholly style. Like I said, the counterintuitive story is just as fun to watch in front of the the paintings and soft pastels. The characters are rich (some actually are monetarily speaking) yet they don’t have to deal with anything more serious than finding love. If this isn’t your pudding that’s fine, but the lavish lightheartedness of it all is what makes Emma. a refreshingly good time. The eponymous Emma Woodhouse, however, would rather be the matchmaker, meddling in other's affairs while staving off marriage for the sake of her father (legendary Bill Nighy killing it in typical goof mode). Anya Taylor-Joy is completely game as Emma, capturing the vanity, earnestness and good intentions of Austen’s character while learning her lessons through the disparity of each of her relationships- with her friend Harriet Smith, her *crush* George Knightley, and her worst tick, poor Miss Bates. The rest of the cast is great too, especially Johnny Flynn as the warm Mr. Knightley and Josh O’Connor as the tragic Mr. Elton. The ebullient score winds its way through the twists and turns of love in almost every scene, sometimes even in sync with a hand gesture or an eyebrow raise. While the tone is a bit inconsistent and the final romantic pairing just barely sticks the landing due to lack of chemistry, this splendidly visual retelling of Jane Austen’s last published novel is a delight for both sore eyes and sore hearts.