Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma has been adapted numerous times in film, TV and on stage. First time director Autumn de Wilde has done a fabulous job in presenting the latest version of this timeless story. An integral part of Emma’s success is the spot-on casting of the delightful Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role.
Plot-wise, this movie adaptation adheres closely to the one found in the book. The timelessness of said narrative is the main reason why Austen’s tale of the “handsome, clever, and rich” young lady continues to resonate to this day.
However, de Wilde has been able to elevate the presentation of the story into a 2020 contemporary-styled arty comedy-drama. The first element of this that is particularly striking are the colours.
De Wilde’s background is in rock music photography – her father Jerry famously photographed many 60s rock icons, including Jimi Hendrix. De Wilde herself has worked on CD covers and music videos for modern rock artists. Even her daughter Arrow is the front person of hot LA band Starcrawler!
So it’s no surprise that Emma looks sumptuous. The costumes, the sets and the actors all pleasing to the eye. Vivid and vibrant, the colours convey the mood and tone of the story brilliantly.
Eleanor Catton’s wonderful script also keeps things light and fun. The comic moments never descend into the farce and the emotional beats never too melodramatic either. A finely tuned balance that works throughout.
Ultimately, it is in the characterisation that touches and connects with an invested audience. Taylor-Joy is perfect as Emma Woodhouse, the well-meaning but somewhat self-absorbed protagonist who believes herself a matchmaker without realising that she is perhaps to inexperienced (21 years old!) for that task.
The supporting cast are all delightfully selected as well. From the fussy Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) to the naive Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), from the creepy Vicar Elton (Josh O’Connor) to the narcissistic Frank Churchill (Callum Turner), and of course, the contrarian George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), all rising to the task.
But of course, Emma is the ideal vehicle to showcase the talents of Anya Taylor-Joy and de Wilde makes full use of her assets. Taylor-Joy deserves her star turn here in a role that is not initially sympathetic but the well-developed character arc is worth the wait!
One of the best films of 2020, no contest. I could watch this over and over again. You should too!
Now streaming on Netflix.
… still there’s more …