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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Beautiful Film Version of Austen's Novel
by James Colt Harrison

Today’s audiences might think a novel written by Jane Austen in 1815 would have no relevance, but they would be wrong. Austen’s novels have lasted for a couple of hundred years because they are just that---applicable today just as much as they were in her day. Times change, of course, and circumstances may vary. But you get the drift.

In Emma, a film version of Austen’s novel by the same name, Emma Woodhouse is a woman gifted with too much confidence in herself. She’s only 21, spoiled, headstrong, rich. She meddles in other people’s personal lives and overestimates her matchmaking abilities. Austen described Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” How’s that for bad-mouthing your own leading lady? Naturally, Austen describes how difficult it is for genteel women to survive on their own in Regency England. The narrative in “Emma” turns into a comedy of manners which involves a woman’s social status, a discreet mention of her age, and the ultimate goal of snaring a man for a good and lucrative marriage.

Cast as Emma is the beautiful young Anya Taylor-Joy. She’s sweet, petulant, annoying, caring, meddlesome, and a busy-body. Other than that, she’s perfect! She’s also rich, pampered and headstrong. My goodness, how can one pretty little girl have so many outstanding characteristics? Her biggest trait is that she fancies herself a matchmaker in the love department. Her best friend Harriet (played by sweet, freckle-faced Mia Goth) is an impressionable young lady completely unschooled in love-making, or even how to deal with boys at all. She falls in love with everybody who passes her on the street. It’s funny and heart-breaking, but Emma tries to help her out by introducing her to the dashing Frank Churchill (the tall hunk of a high-calorie dessert named Callum Turner). How that turns out is part of this delightful, eye-pleasing movie. Everybody and everything here is gorgeous to look at through modern eyes.

What Emma constantly forgets involves how to take care of her own romantic needs. Stalking around for ages is George Knightly, a roguish sort of hunk who seems to buzz around all the pretty young things. But he has a particular penchant for Emma, who won’t, of course, give him the time of day. Knightly is played by British actor/musician Johnny Flynn. He has a certain charm about him that makes you believe he could rip bodices from London to Northern Ireland and get away with it with relish. He’s a new film find and has a rough, overtly sexual quality that may make the ladies gladly give up their modesty for a few minutes of ecstasy gazing into his eyes and being crushed by his powerful arms.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautifully visual films ever made. Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt is a Renaissance painter with his camera lens. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne has created some unbelievably beautiful clothes for both the men and women that seem almost contemporary in their fashionable forms. Today we don’t dress as foppishly, but apparel as scrumptious as this may still be found in Paris and Rome. Ms. Byrne is definitely qualified to be in the Oscar® run for next year. Production design by Kave Quinn, art direction by Alice Sutton and set decoration by Stella Fox take full advantage of the existing mansions on the British landscape. The homes used are so gorgeous they make Downton Abbey’s look like a shanty.

The romance shown by the two leading actors will melt  even the most jaded of hearts. It is so sweet, so sexy, so inducing of angina attacks that viewers will barely survive their rise in blood pressure.

Director Autumn de Wilde (b. 1970) is best known for her work as a commercial and portraiture photographer. She has specialized in photographing musicians and for directing music videos. Emma is her first film.

(Released by Focus Features/ Universal Pictures International and rated  “PG” for partial nudity.)

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