I watched Emma from 1996 starring Gwyneth Paltrow this weekend as part of the Everything Austen Challenge (my item #5). I have seen this movie many times before, but it has been about three years since my last viewing. For a summary of Emma, please see my summary of the book that I recently reviewed.
Watching Emma brought me back to the first time I saw the movie in 1996. It was playing at the theatre at the mall in Houghton during my freshman year at Michigan Technological University. Being a fan of all things Austen, I got together a few of my like minded girl friends and we went to see the movie. It was a fun and happy time!
As of today, this is my favorite version of Emma. The movie does a good job of bringing the novel to screen. There are slight deviations, but nothing significant. I also think the casting is almost perfect. I LOVE Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley, and Ewan McGregor as Frank Churchill amongst others. Alan Cumming and Juliet Stevenson are hilarious as Mr. and Mrs. Elton. The only bits of casting I didn’t like were Toni Collette (who I love in Muriel’s Weddings and other films) as Harriet and Polly Walker as Jane Fairfax. Toni Collette does not meet the description of Harriet in the book at all and seems off the entire movie. Polly Walker also appears too old and worldly to be Jane Fairfax.
I love the music in this movie by Rachel Portman. I actually have the soundtrack and listen to it while I’m working! I also love that Ewan McGregor shows us his fantastic singing voice by singing with both Emma and Jane Fairfax. Although he plays Frank Churchill (not my favorite character), this movie was a great introduction to me of Ewan McGregor and actually made me like Frank more than I do by reading the book.
As with other Jane Austen movies, I loved watching the dancing at the ball. I wish I could dance like this! My only taste of it was during my British Novel class in college. When we read Pride and Prejudice one of my fellow students project was to teach us all how to dance as they do in the 1995 miniseries. As it was Michigan Tech, there were more gentlemen in my class than ladies so I did not have to worry about a lack of partners! It was a good time. It was my second or third time reading the novel, but fun to have people to discuss it with and a teacher that was British and read it with a fine accent!
Back to Emma . . . I love this movie and heartily recommend it. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as Emma. She has class, style, and the haughty, yet nice demeanor that Emma would have. Jeremy Northam is good looking, classy, and perfect as Mr. Knightley. I love the flirtation between Mr. Knightley and Emma. It is apparent, but not overly so, and can really make you see why they should be together. My only sadness is that since it is a movie, it has to shorten the great long ending of the book.
I also think it is funny that my old VHS version says on the back, “If you liked Clueless, you’ll love Emma!” Way to use the remake of Emma to try to win viewers for the movie of the actual source!