Which is? That in short, I love it! The music, the handling of the story… It’s alive.
The casting is brilliant. Miss Bates (pictured above),
Mr. Weston… the entire neighborhood is very well done.
My one (of two) exceptions here was probably Mrs. Weston… (It took me two viewings to start “getting” her expressions, but the more I’ve watched it the more I’ve truly come to like her.)
The Eltons are arrogant and underhandedly cutting—very anti-charitable.
And the John Knightley’s are absolutely perfect!
They seem to fit so well together, and it’s simply fun and delightful to see so much of them!
Frank is very good—with high spirits and puzzlingly moody swings.
And... Jane Fairfax is my other “exception” (she doesn’t exactly have the tall elegance or mystery of the book)—but she is sweet and quiet, and I think overall fits well with everyone else.
I particularly liked how they developed Mr. Woodhouse—why he might have been so nervous and fearful.
Harriet is about exactly as described in the book—both in looks and manners—and as she grows in conceit, I completely identify with Emma’s shocked reactions.
Robert Martin is very good:
an honest, upstanding, wholehearted, serious-minded young man—thoroughly looking up to Mr. Knightley!
And Mr. Knightley. Oh my… Mr. Knightley is… absolutely… positively… (and in all other ways) a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!
His mannerisms, his wry twists of humor, his wonderful, down-to-earth forthrightness! (Did I already use the word amazing??? :)) Ahem! I know I’ve said this before… ;), but words really do quite fail me.
One thing I noticed (and thoroughly enjoyed) is that we get a bit more of his side throughout the story (particularly as he’s figuring out and deducing the various games and complexities going on).
About Emma herself, I initially had very mixed feelings. Again (as I started my first viewing), I wasn’t at all sure about her, but I was firmly floored by the end. She does carry on a bit (regarding the Bates, Eltons, etc.), but I think it comes across as immaturity.
She simply is not ready at the beginning. Mature in stature, she’s yet a growing young woman—and she has to be softened. And I think Romola Garai does a quite literally incredible job showing Emma’s growth in maturity and womanly tenderness.
Running through the entire story as filmed, is also the challenge of what it means to be rooted in a place—in one locality—while at the same time there is an emphasis on moving and motion, tying in with Emma’s growth. Sharp-tongued (she says some sharper things than Lizzy ever did)—set in her own opinions—often scrambling for rational arguments—Emma’s need for a guide is very apparent. And thankfully, he’s right there the entire time!
This version particularly highlights the brother-sister aspect of their relationship, and through it all Mr. Knightley’s concern for her (for her character development and protection) shines out radiantly. There’s a wonderful, wonderful emphasis on her coming to a fullness and ripeness of womanhood as their relationship subtly changes (or as each becomes aware of what it really is). He wins her to gentleness: through it all underlining what a man really is and should be.
|(This part is amazing....)|
And also, as my brother says, “Emma’s great because it’s all about ordinary people screwing up.” Ordinary, everyday people messing up in ways we often like to deem trivial in our own case, but which are in fact hugely important—such as uncharitable thoughts and slips of the tongue. In this particular version, there is an emphasis on truth—and also on the charity necessary among family members: brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters and sons (in-law)—and charity between multiple families.
All in all, I’m very impressed by their careful accuracy to the book—with often an attention to even the minutest of details (where someone was sitting, gestures, etc.) while yet worlds away from approaching it woodenly! Also, I particularly liked how they brought together the three threads of Emma, Frank Churchill, and Jane Fairfax right near the beginning as it really helped cement all the connections.
As a note, I’m generally pretty careful about what “extras” I watch, but the ones on here are well worth viewing (I didn’t find they took you out of the story at all). It was delightful to see how thoughtfully oriented the entire production was (on everyone’s part!) and what a community effort it was—very much in keeping with the spirit of Emma!
So—with a perfectly marvelous casting, thrilling musical score, and beautiful locations and filming—this is an absolutely gorgeous production I’m now utterly thrilled to number among my particular favorites!!