Emma 1996 Gwyneth PaltrowOut of all the versions of Emma - book, movie and TV - I definitely enjoy this version of Emma the best. In fact I might fairly say that without this version, I'm really not that fond of Emma. The character strikes me as childish, petulant and in many situations outright mean. It's hard to enjoy a story when the main character bothers you.
Also, I always found it exceedingly hard to be comfortable with a man who is in essence an "uncle" of Emma - he was a teenager when Emma was born and was always around raising her - to suddenly lecherously wanting to fondle her as soon as she turns 18. That strikes me as quite creepy and unsettling.
This movie version does the best it can to handle both of those main issues. They talk at length about how Mr. Knightley was only a "young teen" when Emma was born and that they were good friends growing up. Emma jokes at one time that they are not brother and sister and Mr. Knightly agrees vehemently. Also they make it clear that Emma is almost 22 - so she's had some time as an adult - before she falls in love with him. Still a bit unsettling, but you can't alter the foundation of the story.
In terms of Emma's childhood petulance, they do well there too. They make it clear that her most egregious act - the public humiliation of Miss Bates at a party - is primarily done because Emma herself was just rudely snubbed by the Eltons and was lashing out. They also try toput her repeated snubbing of Mr. Robert Martin into context of the times. They counter it by showing just how incredibly kind Emma was to the poor, sitting on their beds, handing them soup, not holding herself "above" them at all. In comparison it is Harriet who is uncomfortable with the dirt and squalor.
Many scenes here are extremely well done. The scene of Elton's proposal to Emma has them both nervous and jumpy. The scene of Emma and Mr. Knightley at the end is equally emotion-filled with both of them being sensitive. I like how Harriet is shown to fall deeply in love with man after man, taking some of the responsiblity off of Emma's shoulders.
Emma by Jane Austen - my main page
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