Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Emma Adaptation

Based on the book by Jane Austen
Release Date: November 30th, 2009 (Region 2), TBD (Region 1)
Starring: Romola Garai, Johnny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Jodhi May, Tamsin Greig, Blake Ritson, Christina Cole
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (UK)

You may remember back in August I had a mini rant about the Andrew Davies Emma Adaptation. This was a very flawed adaptation, but I don't think anyone could have succeeded given only 90 minutes to tell the story and labored with a creepy Mr. Knightly. But lucky for us Austen fans the BBC loves to constantly redo the classics. Therefore we've finally been given an adaptation of Emma which had the time to tell the story! Four glorious episodes, four glorious hours so that they don't relegate Mr. Woodhouse to a chair and only vaguely reference him (which once you cast Michael Gambon, you'd be hard pressed to do!) I think that this adaptation was the best so far, and for all you naysayers out there, it's an adaptation, of course they're allowed to fiddle with it! And you know what? The little bit of fiddling made Emma that little bit more relatable without deviating from the Austen script.

I'm going to ruminate a little here before becoming lazy and just doing a bullet point yeah/nay list. While every adaptation has Emma as her own little queen of the castle, a spoiled brat who always gets her way and views people as her own private dolls, none have really addressed how this came to be. This adaptation tackled more the psychological impacts of great events on the characters. All around the same time, the Bateses lost all their money, the first Mrs. Churchill died and Emma's own mother died. While we learn about this stuff in the book, more as just bare facts, they never really go into the impact. The Bateses, besides losing everything, loose the little girl they love. Frank is sent away from the person who loves him most and Emma and her sister become shut-ins due to their father's paralyzing fear that he might loose them too. These are all profoundly sad incidents that are pushed aside in most adaptations because Emma's a little scheming matchmaker. But the loneliness of these events shape the rest of their lives. Then when Emma, through her own doing, loses Mrs. Weston, the woman who became her mother, she is truly alone. She might be the queen of the castle, but it's a sad castle with a shut-in she loves dearly, but a shut-in none the less. This adaptation brings a little humanity to Emma by showing her as coping bravely with the loneliness of her life by being outgoing and scheming. While Austen purists might say "but that's not the book." Who's to say really? There is nothing done in this adaptation that isn't supported by the text! Emma, despite her youth, never leaves home, never leaves her father, so she has never seen anything but her own little world consisting of Highbury. A lonely existence no matter how little there was to distress or vex her. I can't help but also wonder about how much Jane Austen actually put of herself in Emma. A character Austen was quoted as saying: "no one but myself will much like." Perhaps she, in her close family circle was very much like Emma, all show with an undercurrent of sadness.

Things I loved:
Mr Woodhouse's clothing. He looked like Frank Lloyd Wright ready to brave the elements. Totally hilarious.

Johnny Lee Miller. He's a quite, kind of goofy Mr. Knightly. But you really believe he would take care of his estate and property, as well as his people well.

Romola Garai's smile. Just infectious, mischievous and totally Emma!

When Harriett, as a Greek maiden, steals Elton's pencil while trying to maintain her pose. So funny, plus she's so selfconscious while also trying to be unobserved.

Mr. Elton. Blake Ritson was able to out smarm Alan Cumming! That alone is worth the watching of this miniseries.

The actress Christina Cole's (Mrs. Elton's) character was murdered in the TV Show Hex by the actress who plays Jane Fairfax... too, too funny... and yet somehow completely appropriate!

Mr. Woodhouse and Doctor Perry's scene with the cake at the Weston wedding. And to think Doctor Perry took the leftovers home!?!

Box Hill. Never has there been a more awkward outing!

I want the Woodhouse's house. The gardens in back are so pretty and just a little Georgian.

Mrs. E on a donkey! Don't need to say more, it's just that. Mrs. E + Donkey = Hilarity!

Christina Cole as Mrs. E. She could have pushed it further, but I think this problem was all in the writing.

Mrs. Weston's clothes. They were very boxy and stiff. I'm not sure if this was due to how she would "fill out" later on or just to show her lower rank.

Mr. John Knightly...funny, yes, slightly mean, most definitely.

Mr. Knightly dances with Harriet. This was just not set up right, like the slight on her was not so obvious and therefore tried to compensate with a few too many significant glances.

Mrs. Bates. One line at the end? What the hell? She was like a piece of furniture, never used but always lugged around. More of a prop piece for her belabored daughter than a character in the show.

People who complain the vernacular was too modern (this being a problem I have with other bloggers and reviewers!) It was the book's dialogue people! Like those people I sat behind in the theater when I went to the Gwyneth version of Emma, "that ending was SOOO Hollywood!" WTF! It's so Austen!

And a final note, it has been confirmed that this is part of the 2010 Masterpiece Classic lineup!


I have wathed this show when it was showing on bbc. I loved it. Seriousley I want to buy it, but i have to wait till it comes out here in Holland, as usual such things take a long, long, very long time. Hopefully next year they going to air it again but on dutch tv and then I can buy it. Anyway loved it. :)

I think I can happily agree with your review - I really loved the casting and Emma is my favourite favourite book.

I especially agree with your comment about Mrs Bates -I really don't know what they were thinking when they wrote that line in the script!

Though I have to say that I did actually like the way they wrote Mr John Knightly - it made him stand out just that little bit more.

My DVD has just been shipped from and I cannot wait to be able to see again!

I like that both the Knightly men were very unique people and different then the average man.

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