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I have read the book, and for those overly-critical fans of this Jane Austen adaptation, I don't know what else McGrath could have done to more perfectly capture the spirit and major plot elements of Miss Austen's work, especially given the limitations of a two hour movie (which some have complained about being too long!). And as far as Gwen Paltrow's accent is concerned, I must confess I wasn't too familiar with her when I saw this at the theater initially, and I was absolutely convinced at the time that she was an English actress!
I am taken aback by those who criticized the film for its lush scenery. That is one of the things I enjoy and look forward to seeing in period pieces set in the English countryside. The film's beautiful backgrounds are a major contributor to its appeal and success. If your idea of escapist fare is something bleaker, then perhaps you should rent something like "Death Wish III!"
The English country settings are as attractive and charming as the cast, and combine with the story and soundtrack for entertainment that makes you not tire of repeat viewings. McGrath is a wonder at choreographing the interplay of subtle expressions that are so essential in conveying the complicated romantic intrigue that occurs in this story.
This refreshing movie could also be a clinic on how enjoyable a film can be minus sex, violence or even a villainous antagonist. The story is often amusing, endearing, and at times, quite touching.
I have seen many competent Jane Austen book adaptations but this is without question my favorite.
Accompanied by Oscar-winning Composer RACHEL PORTMAN's lush, emotional and dreamy music, this film remains a pure delight worthy of viewing more than once a year.
Gwyneth Paltrow was perfect for the role of Emma. Toni Collette was great as Harriett Smith.
The character who stole the film was MISS BATES!!! She was mesmerizing to watch, one finds oneself on the edge of ones' seat just hanging on her every word and laughing hysterically WITH her. One of the most endearing characters I have come across in ages. From one of the opening scenes when she is thanking Mr. Woodhouse for sending "that lovely quarter-hind of pork... PORK, MOTHER!!!" she shouts into her daffy and clearly hearing impaired Mother, Mrs. Bates (played by Emma Thompson's mother, Phyllida Law) who looks forlorn and lost.
The comical ways that Emma would avoid the grating Miss Bates builds itself up for one truly gut-wrenching scene at the picnic when Emma insults Miss Bates who takes her cruel dig to her heart. We then see poor Miss Bates stammering and on the verge of tears and just so crushed one can not help but feel one's heart ripped out to her on her behalf. It is a classic scene, one to be rewound and played over & over...
The ending is right up there with "Sense & Sensibility" and provides one of life's greatest lessons about how one should marry one's best friend...
I hope that this film delights you all as much as it has myself.
I ADORED it!
Jeremy Northam, as the hero. how shocked are you? I never looked upon him as overtly handsome but heck! What the right role can do for you! He looks so good as the sensible, regal Mr. K, that i am literally looking at him in a new light. He makes and excellent romantic lead. The charm and character that he brings to his role is wonderful!
Ewan McGregor, Greta Sacchi brings in the rest. a good cast. A good movie. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, see this movie, along with Pride and Prejudice - AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, buy the books. It enhances the movie to heights that are extraordinary
But if you're willing to view Emma with the belief that this movie is loosely based on the novel, and enjoy it on its own merits, you'll truly enjoy yourself.
Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the apple of her aged father's eye and spends her ample free time trying to play matchmaker. Having achieved some success by matching her own governess with the widowed Mr. Weston, Emma sets out to match easily persuaded, impoverished newcomer Harriet Smith (Toni Collete) with hilarious results.
Some have complained that the casting is "all wrong" but I don't agree. I think for the comedic spirit of the film, the actors were well chosen. Sophie Thompson nearly steals the show as the muddled but happy Miss Bates. Her silent mother, Mrs. Bates (played by Sophie Thompson's real-life mother Phyllida Law), also steals a few scenes. In my humble opinion, anybody who prefers Mark Strong (the A&E version) over Jeremy Northam in the role of Mr. Knightley has to be "addled in the attic" as it were. Not tall enough? I'm sorry but I wasn't watching how tall he was but that mesmerizing smile. I'm sure I wasn't the only one swooning in my seat.
This is no literary classic (the movie NOT the book!) so let's not make it something it isn't. What Emma truly IS..is an enjoyable romp with a healthy dollop of romance. Viewed in this light, you're in for a good time.
And yes, Ewan McGregor's wig IS hideous. My friends compared it to a dead cat but that would do the cat an injustice.
Of course, she's surrounded by a great supporting cast including Toni Collette, Greta Scacchi, Juliette Stevenson et al...Jeremy Northam is very appealing as the love interest, even if the script wallows a bit in his declaration of love to Paltrow (in the process, allowing all of the tension to drain out of their relationship); several years on, Ewan's hair is a little easier to take than it was in '96 and, personally, I find puckish Alan Cumming a grating presence in anything nowadays. But the standout is, without a doubt, Sophie Thompson (sister of Emma Thompson, daughter of Phyllida Law) as Miss Bates; what this version needs is a scene where Emma reconciles with Miss Bates, as she is the character to whose fate we are drawn. The film is worth watching (again even) for her performance alone.
All in all, this has aged wonderfully with charm to spare and more than enough subtlety to sort out the British class system. Well worth a rental (because its unlikely that Paltrow will ever be this good again--but we'll always have Emma).
If you're looking for a film that you can watch with the whole family, or looking for a romance for yourself, look no further. Emma is that movie. With a beautiful setting, wonderful costumes, and an outstanding cast (have I mentioned the gorgeous Jeremy Northam?), Emma is a perfect ten!
Gwyneth Paltrow does an awesome job capturing the attitude of Emma. She is funny without being excessively silly, yet elegant. She puts on a very convincing British accent (not being British myself, maybe I'm not the best judge, but she fooled me...she was also excellent in "Sliding Doors"...I sometimes forget she's American ~!).
Also brilliant are Jeremy Northam and Sophie Thompson and Phyllida Law (Emma Thompson's sister and mother) as the Bates women. They nearly steal the show...and Ms. Law doesn't even have any lines!
McGrath has crafted and delivered a delightful, feel-good film that is like a breath of fresh air in our often turbulent world. There may be an air of frivolity about it, but in retrospect, this story deals with something that is perhaps the most important thing there is-- in all honesty-- to just about anyone: Love. And with McGrath's impeccable sense of pace and timing, it all plays out here in a way that is entirely entertaining and enjoyable. It's a pleasant, affecting film, with a wonderful cast, that successfully transports the viewer to another time and another place. It's light fare, but absorbing; and the picturesque settings and proceedings offer a sense of well-being and calm that allows you to immerse yourself in it and simply go with the flow.
The winsome Paltrow, who won the Oscar for best actress for `Shakespeare In Love' two years after making this one, seems comfortable and right at home in this genre. She personifies all things British, and does it with such naturalness and facility that it's the kind of performance that is easily taken for granted or overlooked altogether. She's simply so good at what she does and makes it look so easy. She has a charismatic screen presence and an endearing manner, very reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn. Yet Paltrow is unique. As an actor, she has a wide range and style and has demonstrated-- with such films as `Hard Eight,' `Hush' and `A Perfect Murder'-- that she can play just about any part effectively, and with that personal touch that makes any role she plays her own. But it's with characters like Emma that she really shines. She is so expressive and open, and her personality is so engaging, that she is someone to whom it is easy to relate and just a joy to watch, regardless of the part she is playing. And for Emma, she is absolutely perfect.
Jeremy Northam also acquits himself extremely well in the role of Knightley, and like Paltrow, seems suited to the genre-- in the right role, that is; his performance in the more recent `The Golden Bowl,' in which he played an Italian Prince, was less than satisfying. Here, however, he is perfect; he is handsome, and carries himself in such a way that makes Knightley believable and very real. Like Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy in the miniseries `Pride and Prejudice,' Northam has created a memorable character with his own Mr. Knightley.
Also excellent in supporting roles and worthy of mention are Toni Collette, as Emma's friend Harriet Smith; and Alan Cumming, as the Reverend Elton. Respectively, Collette and Cumming create characters who are very real people, and as such become a vital asset to the overall success of this film. And it demonstrates just how invaluable the supporting players are in the world of the cinema, and to films of any genre.
The supporting cast includes Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston), Denys Hawthorne (Mr. Woodhouse), Sophie Thompson (Miss Bates), Kathleen Byron (Mrs. Goddard), Phyllida Law (Mrs. Bates), Polly Walker (Jane Fairfax) and Ewan McGregor (Frank Churchill). An uplifting, elegant film, `Emma' is a reminder of civilized behavior and the value of gentleness and grace in a world too often beset with unpleasantness. And even if it's only through the magic of the silver screen, it's nice to be able to escape to such a world as this, if only for a couple of hours, as it fulfills the need for that renewal of faith in the human spirit. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
Gwyneth Paltrow spends the movie with pursed lips and an expression like she's smelled something foul. Emma is supposed to be condescending, yes - but she's also supposed to be silly, fun, and devoted to her family. You don't get ANY of that from Paltrow. She's just mean and arrogant. Moreover, you don't get the underlying melancholy subtext about Emma - that she is likely to end up like poor Miss Bates. I must say Paltrow did well with the accent, and only obviously dropped it a couple of times.
Sophie Thompson - usually a talented actress - is a total ham and turns Miss Bates into a caricature. She sounds like a stuttering Bugs Bunny.
Ewan McGregor is wasted as Frank Churchill; somehow, the director managed to entirely erase his magnetic charm. Alan Cumming is also wasted as a hammy, clownish version of Elton.
Toni Collette is terribly miscast as Harriet Smith. Harriet Smith is supposed to be a sweet-tempered, beautiful young idiot. Toni Collette couldn't be described as girlish; worse, she acts like an intelligent and confident woman obviously trying to play the fool.
Jane Fairfax doesn't look like a girl of twenty who is the equal in age and background to Emma. Jane Fairfax looks like a sultry older bombshell and acts like it, too.
That said, I thought Denys Hawthorne was charming as the hypochondriacal Mr. Woodhouse. And Jeremy Northam was perfect - charming, handsome, and he turned in a brooding and understated performance that was in stark contrast to the rest of the cast.
Watch the version starring Romola Garai or even Clueless. Both are much better acted and plotted than this version.
The cinematography is inventive, crossing at times the border to gimmickry, but it certainly avoids the trap of making this look like a boring TV soap in costumes, given that the entire story is dialogue-driven.
The acting is competent. Ms Paltrow is aloof, as her character requires, but the required distance from the other characters is accompanied by a much less appropriate detachment from her own actions. In other words, she does not seem to care enough of the results of her match-making endeavours. Some of the supporting cast is guilty of over-acting - very much in the style that is appreciated on stage but out of place in motion pictures. Personally, I had problems accepting Alan Cumming as Mr Elton - to no fault of his own, except for having left such an impression as a gay trolley-dolly in "The High Life" that it is now difficult to accept him playing any serious part. Acting honours go to Toni Collette who manages to radiate warmth, and Jeremy Northam who pitches his character at just the right level.
Doug McGrath did poor work before and after this, as have all his support crew. So I am at a loss to explain how it was that such refined and apt staging was accomplished. There are some very adroit transitions between scenes, which alone make this actual cinema rather than mere illustrated text. There is an accomplished use of architecture in framing shots that similarly transports us from the page. And there are simple frames (maps and globes) that subtly remove us from literature.
I think the casting is masterful. Paltrow has never been so good. She gets more assured as she gets older, but she will never be as committed as she is here. Her cadence in reading the lines is striking -- again, something that seems engineered to transport the words from the page. As with Gwyneth, all the actors might have narrow range (especially Northam), but that range is centered on what is needed.
It all works so damned well. It is not as biting an misanthropic as I recall Austen, instead recast as more mildly comic. That's a flaw. But the execution, the eye and the actor's coordination with that eye, really impresses.
Note that Ewan came from one great experimental director (Greenaway "Pillow Book") before this and went to another (Luhrmann "Moulin Rouge") later; these two films are in my top ten of all time. Juliet Stevenson had also worked with Greenaway ("Numbers") -- Collette and Walker would also go together to work on his "8 1/2 Women." Scacci had worked with Altman on his greatest film. I believe that McGrath sought out the Greenaway style which also influenced Altman...you can see it here, much toned down of course.
I like Gwyneth Paltrow, and I love Jane Austen. (That sounds bad. Sorry Gwyneth.)
And this is a great movie for its writing, and a stiff and imperfect movie for its acting. And for Austen fans (and fans is an understatement for some of them) this is almost awful movie. Awful if you love sublime writing and can't stand to see it so wooden.
Paltrow is good. She's pretty. She's appropriately upright. But she insists on "delivering" her lines. She has them memorized, yes. But she doesn't inhabit the character. And Emma, the character, is one of the best of all literature, filled with sassy individualism and social blindness due to ordinary teenage arrogance. The material is there, and it's a great story (if you like early 19th Century melodramas bordering on soap opera of the highest level).
So, it's not a terrible presentation of the movie, but it is, to be sure, a presentation. I honestly think (and don't tremble in rage here) that Alisha Silverstone in "Clueless" gets the spirit of Emma much closer. There is of course a gap of sensibilities here that I'm ignoring—a girl in 1995 (Silverstone) is no match for a girl in Austen's time. I'll leave that one vague.
About "Emma" it's worth saying that the sets and costumes are so convincing you don't really think about them. Everything is brightly lit (which I suppose is a reasonable choice, though it flattens the film emotionally as opposed to, say, the Merchant-Ivory approach). The whole spectacle is spread before the camera lovingly, if a bit predictably.
In the end it's Austen who wins. The writing, both in the specific dialog and in the general plot outline, are delicate and witty and insightful. Nothing sensational here, just drawing room observation at its best. Kudos for that much, and a reasonable translation to film. It's Austen who wins all those stars.
But on watching it again several years (and many many movies) later - what a well-crafted little gem this is! I've never seen Gwyneth Paltrow in a more convincing performance, and Jeremy Northam is the perfect Mr Knightley - where does one meet such a man??? <<<sigh>>> Sophie Thompson's turn as Ms Bates is virtuoso acting of the finest (oh, napkins, sorry!) and the rest of the cast is no disappointment either - Toni Colette brings a lot of Muriel to her Harriet, and Ewan McGregor is convincingly charming - and Alan Cumming and Juliet Stevenson are the perfect "impossible" couple!
Of course the sets and costumes, and the beautiful soundtrack contribute a lot to the feelgood, almost Hobbiton-like atmosphere of the movie - although as far as cinematography and art decoration go, it's almost a case of visual overload. Very very pretty, but a little more austerity might have conveyed a better sense of period. But the good thing is, the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, and there is plenty of fun - and some pretty cool editing - that keep it from sinking into saccharine Merry Old England mode.
My particular favorite is the ball scene - some beautiful acting and directing here, and the concluding dance summarizes the relationship between Emma and Mr Knightley just beautifully. Pity that the final proposal scene goes on for just a little too long - cut two shots (I can think of exactly which ones!) and it would have been much more in keeping with the rest of the movie.
Gosh, I just realize (by reading the imdb listings) that I've seen Jeremy Northam in at least three movies without even being aware that it was him - seems he's got a lot more going for him, as an actor, than just being a gentlemanlike English heartthrob! Hmm, guess I need to pay my video store a visit...
Lovely movie. My favorite Jane Austen adaptation so far - though perhaps Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility is, strictly speaking, the better movie, this one is closest to my heart - and I've certainly seen it many more times! Watch it if you can - and don't be too hard on its little imperfections.
While many characters are mis-cast and neither Ewan McGregor nor Toni Collette puts in a performance that is worthy of them, the worst by far is Paltrow. I have very much enjoyed her performance in some roles, but here she is abominable - she is self-conscious, nasal, slouching and entirely disconnected from her characters and those around her. An extremely disappointing effort - though even a perfect Emma could not have saved this film.
The performances are incredibly dull and wooden, and I don't care if Paltrow is the leading lady. She is an unlikeable character, who is most meddlesome and a simpleton. The rest of the supporting cast is cliché and poorly written as well, earning no high remarks. Even Ewan McGregor fails to impress. Oh, and the script. It makes me cringe. The story and plot is essentially nonexistent, and each scene is entirely too predictable. Even the soundtrack (which was nominated for an Academy Award) is so uninspired and is nothing simple regal score that grows more boring as the film progresses. The only plus are the sets; they are all fairly fantastic and filled with a lot of detail. With such great sets you would think that they would have better cinematography, but this film looks like it was shot by students straight out of film school.
So aside from looking past the characters, "plot", and writing to appreciate the scenery, I can't stand this film. It's too cliché, too regal, and too predictable to be entertaining or interesting. I may be stepping on some people's toes, so I apologize. But for me this film just doesn't cut it and is, simply, a lazy effort and an annoying adaptation of a famed novel.
Emma Woodhouse is a confident woman from a wealthy background who spends her days playing cupid by matchmaking. She is a bright know it all who also likes to engage in gossip. Emma's problems arise when she tries to set up a match between her friend, Harriet Smith (Toni Collette) and the Reverend Elton (Alan Cumming) and fails. Emma tries other matches but they also backfire.
Emma realises her limitations when she is admonished by Mr Knightly (Jeremy Northam) who is the voice of reason. Emma is well meaning but like everyone else is firmly rooted to the class system of the day.
The film is rather light and airy, nice to look at, well acted but also rather boring. It felt just too superficial.
I thought the tone (which in many cases can make or break a period drama)was pretty good: It was light and warm. The pacing is pretty rushed, and I didn't particularly care for the cinematography, but the costumes were pretty and fairly accurate. The settings were appropriately lavish. I did think the lurid pink walls of Hartfield's parlour and the gold and teal tapestries at Randalls were over-the-top, but the music was pleasant and seemed well composed (if not well placed at times.)
Initially I had my doubts about Gwyneth Paltrow being cast as Emma, but I did have faith in Jeremy Northam's ability to portray the mature and exceedingly pleasant character of Mr. Knightly. I wasn't entirely disappointed by either. Gwyneth wasn't stellar as Emma. She didn't fit the image of the character because she looked a bit skinny and she should never have her hair pulled tight against her head.The delivery of her lines was sometimes nasal and she often appeared vapid or vaguely mournful. Worst of all, she failed to make Emma likable, which is possible,and indeed necessary. Jeremy Northam was physically perfect for Mr. Knightly. I did think some of his lines were not delivered as they should have been, but that is probably as much the director's fault as his own. Toni Collette, while a good actress I'm sure, was entirely wrong for Harriet Smith. Harriet is short plump and fair, where Toni (with red hair and wearing almost exclusively pink) was tall plump and rosy.
Ewan McGregor was dreadfully miscast as Frank Churchill. An actor such as he should never be in period pieces. And he had that same horrid, frizzy red/brown hair that you see on young Ebenezer Scrooge in the George. C Scott version of "A Christmas Carol". Now we come to Jane Fairfax, played by Polly Walker who I don't particularly care for in general. Don't think that's the only reason why I would say that she's wrong for Jane though. My issue is that she appears to physically and emotionally strong to play a demure character who spends almost the entire story love-sick. Oh and I may have forgotten to mention this about Polly Walker, but she's Beelzebub. Did you see her smile? In her first scene, that red light around her head was not the sunset. It was the glow of hellfire.
Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton was as agreeable as he was supposed to be, but not quite handsome enough, Juliet Stevenson was quite annoying as Mrs. Elton, but I don't think some of her lines were as funny as they were supposed to be. Sophie Thompson's Miss Bates was certainly chatty, but I think she was a bit too young. Lastly, I didn't really care for Greta Scacchi as Miss Taylor, and James Cosmo over-acted Mr. Weston.
The story got the important plot points across and apart from the re-location of various moments to sceneries other than those described in the book, there were only two things that I majorly objected to.
1) the portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse. So many of his lines seem critical or harsh. In one of the first scenes, during his "Poor Miss Taylor" rhetoric, Mr. Woodhouse says how he cannot understand why Miss Taylor would leave her comfortable place with them to "raise a family of mewling infants that would bring the risk of disease every time the enter or leave the house." and he says this right in front of one of his TWO daughters. In addition, his eldest daughter has quite a good number of children all of them quite young, of whom he is very fond and is always delighted to see.
2) The Archery Scene. This is the part where Mr. Knightly and Emma argue over Harriet's rejection of Robert Martin. This is a pretty intense scene in the book because Mr. Knightly's manner goes from astonished, to indignant to truly vexed. In this movie it begins casual enough, which is good, but it stays casual. Not only that, but when Emma protests that "Harriet is a gentleman's daughter," she doesn't seem to be arguing a case so much as complaining. The delivery of the line is high-pitched and insipid, and after she says it she stands there, looking up at Knightly with her mouth hanging open as if there is nothing going on in her head whatever. Then, in her frustration and already shooting poorly Emma's arrow goes wide and into the general direction of Knightly's dogs. As a totally out-of-place comedic moment Knightly says "try not to kill my dogs,". My problem with this is that this further mocks the idea that Knightly is really irritated with Emma; and Knightly should have made sure that his dogs weren't sitting behind the targets BEFORE they started shooting.
Apart from those issues it's an okay adaptation of the book, but not the best.
Though the movie does follow the novel most of the time (I can recall only two scenes that don't exist in the novel), but the way things represent themselves in the novel, the movie hasn't been able to bring the characters to life. Except for the title character on whom the movie (or the novel) is based, the remaining characters have been badly undermined, thus lacking the humor of the novel.
Watching movies is my passion as are the books and I often watch movies again, but this one won't be one the list for second watching. Thanks.
First of all, the pace is incredibly slow, so it seems much longer than it is (and it's not short).I'm sure when Jane Austen wrote the book, she made it several pages long, filled it with description, and didn't intend for people to read in in one day, or it might drag and lose it's appeal, which "Emma" most certainly did. Now "Sense and Sensibility" had this flaw of a slow pace, but at least it had lively lines to make up for it, as well as some good performances!
That brings me to flaw #2, which is of course, the acting. While I don't happen to care for basically anybody involved in this film, I am sure they are capable of good work, but I didn't see much of it in this movie. It was like people were trying too hard to be witty, too hard to be "upper-class", too hard to be British (well, some of them), so they all just came off as a bunch of actors and not as people.
#3. The cast, as I said, seemed only like actors, and not actually like the people they were playing. Maybe that's a good thing, because the people they played really weren't all that nice. Why did everybody like Emma, for example? Sure, she was nice to the rich, handsome people in front of them, but she was an awful gossip behind their backs. If her friends were "ugly", then she didn't even bother to go behind their backs. So, why is this girl so great? Why do people have to tell stories, "just to make her laugh?" Of course the snob couldn't even do that right. I have enough problems with Gwyneth Paltrow as Gwyneth Paltrow, and her "Emma" did not exactly change my opinion.
Well, it's easy to see that I did not care for this one. I'm sure it's a lovely book and all, but some books are really not meant to be made for the big screen, and "Emma" is one of them.
How any true Jane Austen fan can rate this adaptation is a mystery to my eyes. The scriptwriters have decided to stick in bits of ridiculous humour which are embarrassing at the best of times, but also ruin the feel of the period. As for the cast: Gwyneth Paltrow makes a rather shallow heroine (but then any 'hot' American star would be questionable in the role), Toni Collette is miscast, and poor Ewan McGregor is made to look laughable!
I really could not say a good thing about this film. I seem to be among the very few who don't rate it, but if you want my advice, see instead the TV production starring Kate Beckinsale - believe me, that is far preferable to this superficial trash.