Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Movie Review- Emma (2009- Romola Garai)

Okay, so I know I've already written a review of this Emma a couple years ago but with my re-reading Emma I decided to re-watch it and with a second viewing in mind I want to write a new movie review. Now my opinions haven't changed terribly much since the first viewing but I think I need to expand on them.
So to start out I want to look at the writing as that is where I have a good deal of my problems. I have a variety of problems with the casting too but I think I can be fair and say that if the writing hadn't been as it was the characters probably could have carried out their part fairly well.

The Screenplay

To put it bluntly I think a too modern version was written of Emma. While some of Austen's actual lines were used, they were in the minority and the screenwriters added in many of their own lines... some of them were okay... some of them were not. Stick with the source. However, please don't sit there and quote a book to me in the movie but use the lines from the book when it flows well.... just look at Pride and Prejudice '95 to see a beautiful example of how to do it right. However I will say that the movie managed to get a majority of the story in the miniseries thanks to it being an actual miniseries! I'm all about including everything in the book. ;) It was interesting how it focused on how the lives of Emma, Jane and Frank intertwined but I think they almost focused on it too much. 

The Casting

Let me just go down the list of the characters. 
Emma- My biggest qualm is with the casting of Romola Garai as Emma. Okay... I'll be fair, if they'd written her differently she might have worked but still. Emma comes off as dreadfully immature and unladylike. She was giggling every five seconds! Okay... not every five seconds but definitely every five minutes!  Now Emma has her immaturities... that's obvious from the book. She's proud and snobbish, she thinks she can control peoples' lives and make them act how she wants them to. She can be rude to Miss Bates but never in front of her until Box Hill. Romola Garai just runs wild with this childish version of Emma. She's openly rude and unladylike something the Emma in the book would not have stooped to. Emma has her pride. I mean, if Emma is going to complain about how Robert Martin and his family is unrefined I think this version may need to turn around and take a look at herself. This Emma is quite unrefined! Now Romola Garai is not all bad as Emma. When she's not acting like a teenager she's fine in her role. I could really see a well done change at the end as she realizes her errors so maybe there's hope. ;) Now you may think I'm to harsh with her but it's just when I wast watching it at a certain point I paused and looked at my sister and said "If I acted like Emma does here can you imagine what mom and dad would say? I would be in big trouble!" Now that's me as a 21st century young woman (Who's the same age as Emma was) saying that. Emma as a 18th century GENTLEwoman would be scandalizing everyone if she acted like that. Poor Mr. Knightley has a 24/7 case with her! Okay... actually rant not over yet... a new thought just struck me. I wasn't going to complain about how she flirts with Frank Churchill because in the book she does somewhat and them overdoing it in this movie isn't the end of the world BUT then I when searching pictures I saw side by side pictures of this Emma and Lydia Bennett and I was struck by how accurate it was! So I have to complain about that too now! Of course it's not a perfect analogy by any means but it is still something to think about!

This is how I see her though. 

Mr. Knightley- I love Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. I think... think.... he's probably the best Mr. Knightley. I had one person say that him and Emma look too close in age. I don't think they look any closer in age than any of the other Knightleys and Emmas and I looked it up and the actual actor and actress are nine years apart so while not sixteen it is a pretty good gap nonetheless. I think he perfectly balances the sternness and brotherly love of Mr. Knightley portrayed in the book. 
Mr. Woodhouse- Michael Gambon is a great actor there is no denying. I'm not sure he was perfect for this role though. Don't get me wrong, I liked him, but wasn't blown away by him. Part of this had to do with how they kind of changed his character giving him the reason of his wife's death for why he is a hypochondriac and worries so much. I don't mind giving a reason and it works alright but then overall I just feel like it wasn't necessary and detracted too much from the story. My two cents.

Mrs. Weston (aka Poor Miss Taylor)- Okay, I don't have a problem with the casting of Mrs. Weston in fact I think it was good. She looks like she could pull off the role well. However, again, screenwriting. As Emma's governess she just seemed too indulging of Emma and too giggly. Now I know that in the book she is too indulging of Emma but she doesn't sit there and giggle at Emma's antics. That's ridiculous! Besides that though she does a fine job.

Miss Bates- Again, casting seemed fine but they didn't seem to make her talk enough! She just wasn't annoying enough! She gets the fast talking and the inane prattling but she doesn't talk long enough. In the books there are paragraphs of Miss Bates going on and on! I just don't feel like they bring that to the screen well enough.

Frank Churchill- Casting was great here. No major complaint. I did think it was odd he spent a lot of time being grouchy and complaining at the heat at Box Hill. Those complaints in the book were secluded to the strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey and he's supposed to be far more cheerful at Box Hill in contrast. Besides that though good job with the part.

Jane Fairfax- I'm not in love with the casting of Jane. She didn't have the dignified elegance others that have played her carried out. She's sweet and meek but then again she actually shouts at Mrs. Elton a few times! Also I hate that bonnet they put on her. It scrunches her face! She has simply lovely dresses though!

See how that bonnet scrunches her face! 

Harriet Smith- I think the casting for Harriet was perfect and I actually think she was written really well. No complaints there. In fact, I'd say she probably is my favorite Harriet.

Mr. Elton- Blake Ritson was fine as Mr. Elton but not my favorite. He didn't show off the pride of Mr. Elton well enough for me. I did think it was far more obvious in this version than in others that he liked Emma not Harriet but maybe that's just me. Overall okay.

Mrs. Elton- Fine job I'd say. Not my favorite portrayal of her but still good. I know it's not in the book but I think it's pretty funny how they have her actually ride a donkey to the strawberry picking.

All of the rest of the casting is fine and too minor for me to write a paragraph on. ;)


Lovely! I added it to my repertoire already! 


Gorgeous! No complaints. 

And one other complaint.... THEY LEFT OUT THE "BROTHER AND SISTER? NO!" LINE!!!!!! I LOVE that line! End rant.

So that is kind of my opinion on this Emma. I'm not in love with it but I don't hate it. If they had recast Emma or rewrote how they portrayed Emma I think it could have been a great version. 
What are your thoughts on this Emma? I know my opinion on it is an uncommon and unpopular opinion but hey... that's me! ;)
Also, be sure to check out Heidi's review of this version of Emma HERE

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  1. Heehee:P

    I greatly enjoy this adaptation of Emma, but then I haven't read the book, so I daresay you're right. There are definitely some cringe-worthy awkward parts, such as with Jane's outspoken-ness and Harriet's, well, Harriet-ness;) Now that I read through all three of your reviews, I think I do believe that the Kate Beckinsale version is the best-cast, but I think I might enjoy watching this one more, as a whole. I wonder why that is?? Huh. Anyway, thanks for the great reviews!:D

    1. It's still an enjoyable version and it surprises me I can say that because it annoys me a lot at some points. However, looking past a movie's faults is something I should work on so maybe I'm growing in that area? ;)


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