Amazon Prime Summary:
Jane Austen’s beloved comedy about finding your equal and earning your happy ending is reimagined in this delicious new film adaptation of Emma.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the majority of FYA readers are pretty familiar with the plot of Jane Austen’s Emma, about a privileged girl whose good-natured attempts at matchmaking and makeovering cause more harm than good. I’d say it probably ranks second only to Pride & Prejudice for number of movie/TV adaptations. You’ve got the 2009 BBC version with Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley, you’ve got the 1996 version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and you’ve got my personal favorite Emma adaptation, Clueless, just to name a few.
Did we NEED a new Emma adaptation? Yes. The answer is always yes to Jane Austen movies. I don’t care how beloved an adaptation is, we can make another one. (She says cautiously, aware that Netflix and Dakota Johnson have made a Fleabag-ified Persuasion that looks ready to piss her off.)
Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma
Of all the casting choices in this movie, Anya might be the one I’m the most ambivalent about. She’s great in period pieces because she has the face of someone who looks like they’ve never heard of iPhones. But, IMO, I thought she played Emma just a smidge too mean girl. Emma is supposed to be privileged and there are moments in the story when she’s influenced into truly bad behavior. But overall, Emma isn’t a mean girl.
That said, Anya IS good in this. I’m just being a pedantic Austen fan.
Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley
If Anya is good, Johnny Flynn is very, very good. Anyone who watched Lovesick knows the appeal of Johnny Flynn (though I was admittedly more of a Luke gal, myself). But Johnny Flynn in BREECHES? Johnny Flynn’s BARE BUTT? Johnny Flynn FLAILING around his ESTATE in lovesick AGONY and saying things like “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”???????? You aren’t ready for this appeal.
Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse
This casting choice is *chef’s kiss* and I’ll admit that at first I doubted it. When reading Emma, I imagined Mr. Woodhouse as a small, round little man, so lanky Bill Nighy was not it for me. Despite Bill’s being in literally everything, I will forever think of him as Billy Mack from Love Actually. But I take it all back. He’s a brilliant, paranoid, hypochondriac, worrying father and I loved him.
Mia Goth as Harriet Smith
Okay I don’t recognize anything from Mia Goth’s filmography but I DO recognize her as Shia LaBeouf’s ex-wife (?) and baby mama. Their relationship timeline is a wild ride from start to finish.
Callum Turner as Frank Churchill
Callum isn’t exactly a familiar face to me, but his filmography reads: British. Lots of BBC shows and parts in all the Fantastic Beasts movies.
Amber Anderson as Jane Fairfax
It’s interesting to watch Amber Anderson play sweet, shy Jane Fairfax after watching her play SUCH an evil blonde on Peaky Blinders.
Josh O’Connor as Mr. Elton
Josh also did a stint on Peaky Blinders, plus The Crown and a handful of other BBC projects. He is great as Elton because he has a very punchable face.
Tanya Reynolds as Mrs. Elton
It’s Lily from Sex Education! There’s no alien erotica happening here, but her hairdos are in the Lily style.
Connor Swindells as Robert Martin
ADAM GROFF! Ugh, I really love Sex Education. Connor’s Robert Martin reminds me a bit of Adam Groff, actually. This guy does sweet, dumb face/heartstring-tugging vulnerability VERY well.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Gather Round Ye Fellow Austenites
You’re GONNA want to watch this with people who love Jane Austen because they are GONNA have opinions. On the one hand, you’ve got art direction that feels like a box of Lauduree macarons, reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. The direction is quirky and a little twee, reminiscent of a Wes Anderson movie. As for the story, Emma is one of Austen’s more comedic novels. She pokes fun at the characters here more so than in novels like Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion, but you still get a sense of Austen’s fondness for them (unlike Northanger Abbey which feels like all satire, little fondness).
Overall, the effect feels really modernized (did I mention Johnny Flynn’s bare butt?), so even though the script doesn’t veer far from the source material, die-hard Austenites will surely have much to say about it.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Ladies Luncheon and High Tea
Alcohol definitely not required, but if you’re invited all your Austen-loving pals for a viewing, might I recommend some Earl Gray and those little cucumber sandwiches?
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Austen Authority
If you love Jane Austen, I think this one is a must. It has all the hallmarks of a true Austen adaptation, plus a few nods to some of our favorite Austen movie moments (LOTS of close-up hand shots, iykyk).
But I also think anyone who enjoys quirky filmmaking and frothy Regency costuming will enjoy it. Rich people with sprawling English estates who do nothing all day except go to balls and look at roses in their greenhouse is its own form of escapism in the world we live in today, don’t you think?