Emma. (2020) movie review
Based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name, Emma follows, well, Emma, a girl from a wealthy family living in England in the 1800s who begins to meddle with the love lives of her close friends. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the high-class titular socialite, the film was adapted for the screen by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde, neither of whom has done work on a theatrical scale. Emma was released this past weekend to generally positive reviews across the board, opening in sixth place at the domestic box office.
Emma has had more than its share of adaptations, however none as well-known as the 1995 comedy Clueless. However while Clueless excels using its 90s setting as a coming-of-age story as well as a romance, this adaptation of Emma (while still bearing similar elements) takes its rooted 1800s setting and runs with it, delving into plenty of satire with its comedy. In other words, Emma is the pettiest film I think I’ve ever seen, and while it is hilarious, the film manages some solid drama and character development, making it an all-around compelling film for anyone who likes com-dram period pieces, or any of those on their own.
As far as satire goes, the film is genuinely funny, with enough awkward pauses and static framing to make Wes Anderson jealous. And while the entire cast pulls their weight, Bill Nighy truly steals with his portrayal of a hilariously manic and slightly paranoid man. On a more serious note, Anya Taylor-Joy pulls an impressive feat as well, helping the audience deal with an utterly dislikable character for the first two acts of the film by delivering a level of ignorance that would only be believed in snobby rich people with nothing else to do but invite each other over to their mansions. Johnny Flynn and Miranda Hart are also notably great, with one delivering a much more relatable performance than the rest of the cast, and one balancing humor and comedy arguably best in the film.
The quality of the film was solid as well, with a fun score, great costume design, and pacing that is surprisingly upbeat for a film not really about anything except its characters. And in both its comedic aspects and its romance story, the film has some truly fantastic moments! So what didn’t I like about Emma? Well, Emma. Now I know that in order to have character growth, your protagonist has to come from a place she can grow, and the film does a very good job with that! (Meaning Jane Austen does actually.) However as good as the last act is, it doesn’t change how much I didn’t like Emma at times in this movie. That said, I do admire the film’s beat structure and ability to work in the fact that Emma is at times not a very good person into forcing her to change, which I think is the thing that puts this film above a few other novel-based period pieces I have seen.
So if Onward was a bit too unfocused for you, you don’t care about basketball, and you need something significantly more tame than Universal’s latest monster flick, sit back, sip your tea, and check out Emma. It’s not the first of its kind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Emma is consistently hilarious, with a standout performance from Bill Nighy, and the film is not only well made, but well written. As funny as Emma is, it wouldn’t be great without some solid character development, which it establishes very well. So what I am trying to say is, Emma is a great time! 8/10.
So Emma? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite film based on a Jane Austen novel? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!
-review by Ryan Prince