Written by: Eleanor Catton
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart
Even with familiar tales, re-imaginings find their worth in what new ways they can present the stories. While being an adaptation of the famous novel with the same name, Emma. utilizes its beautiful vibrant backdrop and exquisite production design to create an engrossing experience all wrapped up into this wonderful and timeless story. Witty and a perfect utilization of its actors, it matches style and substance efficiently.
While not interested in partaking the courtship game herself, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) enjoys playing matchmaker. She’s proud of her success rate and now has the challenge of trying to set up Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) with someone she approves of instead of the farmer boy Harriet has gained affection for.
If anything, watching Emma. allowed me to have a greater appreciation for the brilliance of Clueless in the way it translated the Jane Austen novel into the 21st century. This film, in particular, uses a similar time period and it certainly utilized its craft elements to boost the story in a wonderful way. This facet of the film allows it to stick out and it becomes a feast for the eyes. Every dining area, living, and landscape appeared to have an otherworldly appearance but also looked incredibly luscious. The use of vibrant yellows and pinks brightened everything up, which matched the tone put forward by the film. It accentuated the sweet moments and let the harsher moments feel more abrupt.
So much texture exudes from Emma. with its ethereal nature matched with its touching story. At times it appeared to be a dollhouse the audience watched, as matchmaking became the game for Emma. Every piece of food looked immaculately made and fit right in perfectly with the background. Narratively, the story matches the original novel fairly closely but uses some incredibly fun wit to make some of the dialogue extra piercing when necessary. As with any adaptation, the key to this film’s success comes in presenting the character of Emma as a well-meaning yet troublesome individual.
Anya Taylor-Joy steps into the role and she fits in swimmingly well, especially with the tone this film wanted to take with the story. She matches up well with the snarky moments and condescending things her character must say and do all with having a smile on her face. Whether it be the passive looks and the genuinely emotional moments, Taylor-Joy handles everything in stride and proves to be one of the best interpretations of this character. With many of her films that have brought her fame like The Witch, seeing her have some fun with this silly role really suits her and hopefully she continues to expand and prove her ability in any genre.
The supporting cast each had such delightfully delicious moments to shine with the best of them being Mia Goth, who portrays Harriet. She shows the young spirit this character personifies and how she wants to find love and appease Emma as well. Goth takes on all of the silly moments in stride and has fun with the ridiculousness Harriet brings to the story. Bill Nighy, as Emma’s father, does not receive nearly enough screen time but each time he makes an appearance, he turns it into gold. This more laid back character enters the narrative at different points and it makes you just want to hang around to learn what shenanigans he gets into whenever he’s not featured in the story.
Hilarious would be a good way to describe this film, which comes as a testament to this fantastic debut by director Autumn de Wilde. She allows the texture to sink into the background and stages the story to match it in a wildly entertaining way. While this story has been told several times, the manner in which she takes the adapted screenplay of Eleanor Catton and visualizes the humor was certainly impressive. For a directorial debut, it speaks wonders for what she can do with these types of stories and I look forward to seeing what she has in store for the rest of her career.
A wonderfully delectable time and a world to easily sink into, Emma. utilizes its famous story and sharpens it a bit for new sensibilities. This presentation is oozing with style and provides a wonderful background for everything to take place. The costume design, as with most period pieces, look terrific and it’s all accentuated by the direction and the wonderful acting job by all involved, especially the lead.