Starring: Tanya Reynolds, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gemma Whelan
Written by Eleanor Catton, Directed by Autumn de Wilde
If you were to write a list of movies based on a Jane Austen novel you could stretch that list from sea to shining sea, or close to it. Of course I jest, but since 1938 it seems like an Austen adaptation is mandatory or the world would have less of both sense and sensibility. It has been a or so year since a new Austen film and even as we have been blessed with a zombie version of one of her stories it’s been ten years since Emma. graced the big screen and we are due a new version.
Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a woman with means and privilege who considers herself quite the matchmaker. She lives with her father Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) and after claiming credit for a successful match, has now set her eyes on her friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) as her next win. Emma believes that Mr. Elton (Josh O’ Conner) is the perfect match and even goes as far as having Harriet reject a well-mannered farmer. Confusion though turns its head as Mr. Elton believes that it is Emma who is in love with him and when he finds out otherwise he flees only to come back with a wife of his own. Soon a new player is introduced in Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) as well as a woman named Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson), who Emma has heard all about. With everyone in place as Emma tries to make a match she finds herself finding her own match in George Knightly (Johnny Flynn) while also finding out all things seem to work out when it comes to love.
Telling a story that has been told so often can offer its own type of hurdles as you try to stand out. With a story like this it really comes down the cast as they will be the ones who can make their version of the material rise or fall, as there is not much you can do with the story, unless you add zombies, but that has been done already. With this version of Emma. there are times it comes off as stale, mostly with the first act, but there are enough good nuggets that it keeps you entertained. Most of the work is done by Taylor-Joy, who soars playing our little wannabe cupid Emma and it doesn’t take long to be reminded that every movie is better with Bill Nighy in it.
The world looks beautiful, but the music by David Schweitzer and Isobel Waller-Bridge leaves you confused of your true feelings of it, as well as the film itself. The good news it with Taylor-Joy leading the way, Emma. finds its stride at about the midpoint and turns what feels like a tired story into something that is quite enjoyable. While this is not the perfect match for me, I’m sure we only have to wait a few more months before we get another Austen adaptation to rate and review.