I haven’t read Jane Austen’s original version of Emma since college, but judging from its latest incarnation, a title that better suits it is Much Ado About Nothing. By now, after so many treatments of the source, everyone must know that Emma is a privileged young woman who fancies herself a do-gooder, particularly vis a vis her friendship with Harriet Smith, a young woman missing everything Emma has - wealth, lineage, social standing and personality. Unfortunately, that last quality is not in evidence in either the screenplay or bland performance by Anya Taylor Joy. But, even if it were, it’s hard to see what the two women would ever have in common except the endless flattery of Emma herself.
The exterior landscapes and interior designs of the various great houses are beautiful, as are the varied musical backgrounds and costumes. The hairstyles couldn’t possibly be less flattering so I will assume that this was the director’s nod to us that these characters were not allowed the freedom to think for themselves. One of the fallacies of many period films is to equate antiquated social customs with primitive thinking - thus none of the women in this film has anything clever to say except the one sentence that Emma utters to humiliate the unfortunate spinster, played by Miranda Hart who was Chummy on Call the Midwife. That may seem extraneous for you to know in this review, but it was a bright note for me to recognize her and smile at the memory of her much better part on that series. I should mention that Bill Nighy, an actor who is normally a scene stealer par excellence, has only one opportunity to do that and mainly functions in this movie as a mannequin of himself.
As you will guess from my suggestion of a better title, by the last scene you will know that All’s Well That Ends Well, so if you’re looking for a chance to take a nap and wake up to a wedding, see Emma.
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