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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Emma (1996): a Review in a Million Parts

As you probably know, the "homework" for this past weekend was to spend some time getting reacquainted with your first Austen — and though my first Austen is debatable, the one that stands out, that I remember as being most definitely my first knowing brush with Austen, is the Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam -starring Emma of the mid-nineties. (This was not the only Emma of the mid-90s, mind you. Or even the only Emma of 1996. Who was in charge of planning the 90s, because I would like to speak to them?)

ANYWAY, this weekend, I sat down to watch this long-standing favorite that I haven't seen in the better part of two decades, to see if it stood the test of time. What followed was a long, enthusiastic twitter chat, the highlights of which I'm going to share with you below. If you'd like to see the whole thing in all its somewhat snarky glory, you can find that here. Otherwise, click through, see what I had to say, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Miss Bates is the best...
As is Emma, just as a general rule.

Mr. Elton, however, is the worst. (Mrs. 'E'? Same.)

Truly, they did the comedy justice in this movie.

We might have to have a "Misunderstood Austen, part 2" because I'm still realizing things...
Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax? Also THE WORST.

I am v. V. serious: I want to do a "villains" rereading next year.
I have... just so many thoughts on Emma.

That Jeremy Northam obsession in full swing...


Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
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  1. Great analysis! I love Emma: this adaptation and this book. Miss Bates used to annoy me with all her Babblings but I have come to appreciate her, almost like a Shakespeare chorus, giving us the valuable clues in a not so subtle speech.

  2. Emma is not my favorite, but that is compared to other Austen novels and it is far and above other novels. Anyway, I do love this movie and Northam was swoony. This Miss Bates is the best.
    I agree about Emma taking his 'badly done' and being willing to change. Wonderful point in the story.

    Fun reading your thoughts, Misty!

  3. I enjoyed this post so much!

    I think we are very lucky because adaptations of Emma are on the whole, all really good. 96,96 again and 09, all are really worth watching and enjoyable.

    I have always liked Emma, even though the first time I read it I had to take a short break when she insulted poor Miss Bates because the cringe factor was so extreme! The reasons I like Emma are that firstly, she means well, even though she is often wrong. Secondly, she tries very hard to be gracious to others, even though she is surrounded by very annoying people aside from Miss Taylor and Mr Knightley, and she has no escape from them. She lives in Kent and has never even been as far as the seaside - Kent actually has a seaside, it's not like it would have been a massive journey to go there. She has never seen Mr Knightley dance before, leading me to suppose that she's never been to a dance, which is so sad for a young lady of her age.

    Thirdly, although she's often wrong, she is quite a bit more intelligent than the people around her and pretty much everybody bows to her judgement. Is it any wonder that she believes that she's always right? I think a lot of readers don't extend a lot of compassion towards Emma's circumstances and background. She is a product of it.

    That being said, it's easier to love her from a distance, I am glad I am not friends with her because her interfering would do my head in! :)

    1. There are some damn EXCELLENT points here!

  4. This version is my favorite even though I can't stand Paltrow now but I was introduced to Northam as well and continued to see most of his films in the nineties. Glad it still holds up for you. I love that collage scene of Toni Collette "helping out." Classic. I need to go watch again!

    1. LOL, right?! One of the tweets I didn't include here was about how I was just going to choose to remember Paltrow as she was in this movie, and forget about the Paltrow of 2019.

  5. My favorite Austen adaption that is not a retelling. I think Mr Knightley here is the reason I changed to him as my favorite Austen hero. Before this movie, I think it was Darcy. But I watched this when I was very young and at that time I craved someone to guide me maybe, so Mr Knightley seemed to do that even though it could potentially be problematic.

    1. I think when we discover something -- the stage we are in life -- has a BIG impact on how we interpret it, and what becomes a favorite.

  6. I like all Emma adoptions but this is my favorite also. It is the funniest and introduced me too to Jeremy Northam. He is soooo swoon worthy!

    1. SO swoon-worthy! If you haven't seen Possession, he's great in that as well.

  7. I haven't watched this since it was released on dvd. I enjoyed reading your commentary and I'm glad you included one of my favorite scenes when Harriet mentions that Elton has brown eyes comparing him with a dog, very appropriate and hilarious. I also loved the casting for this although now I find Gwyneth in the role a bit distracting as it's difficult for me to see beyond the actress to the character.

  8. This was all so great to read. I'm wondering what you think about why people love Emma so much? Why do we keep coming back to it as a story? Is it because she's one of Austen's only heroines who is not reliant on making a 'good match' to have a good life? She as true freedom, within the limits of the time. She has no incentive to be appealing, kind, marry-able. That affects her behaviour. It's kind of a pleasure to watch a woman be so free - kind of like in Clueless. That's just my theory. Any contributions welcome.

    1. *has true freedom. Sorry, was typing quickly.


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