How can two minutes in a movie contain both rapture and disgust? I have been to see the new Emma and, in the scene when Mr Knightley tells Emma he loves her, I was saying the words with him in my head and adoring every minute of his emotion and language. And then came a nose bleed, and I wanted to scream in frustration and horror. Why, oh why, oh why did anyone think a nose bleed was a good idea?
As most of you probably know, I worship Jane Austen’s Emma. It is, in my view, the world’s greatest novel. I know that a film is a different art form and that changes must be made, and I’m not unrealistic enough to expect perfection in both book and movie. I tried to keep an open mind and enjoy the story on the screen. And mostly I did enjoy it, but came away feeling it was a bit like the curate’s egg – good in parts.
So … I’ll give you a list of what I loved and what I disliked:
- The moment at Box Hill when Emma insults Miss Bates. You could feel the hurt and embarrassment and discomfort so superbly.
- The ball at the Crown Inn was beautifully done.
- Mr Knightley telling Emma of his feelings (until the nose bleed) and even having tears in his eyes.
- Some amazing costumes and settings and houses.
- At first I didn’t think Harriet was pretty enough, but she won me over and Robert Martin was excellent.
- Mrs Elton was wonderfully vile and her husband suitably wet.
- The piano duel between Emma and Jane.
- That nose bleed!
- Mr Knightley wasn’t nearly tall enough (and he badly needed a comb). Most of the other men towered over him and it is so important in the book that Mr Knightley is superior to every other man, in height as in all else. I did really like Johnny Flynn in the role, though his feelings were made clear to Emma far too early, but I just wished I could give him several more inches.
- I love Bill Nighy as an actor, but he was too farcical and sprightly as Mr Woodhouse.
- Emma’s hair and some of her weird necklines (at times she looked like she was being guillotined by her clothes). I found her to be a spiky and brittle Emma Woodhouse and felt she needed to show more of the warmth that is in the novel’s Emma.
- Turning Mr and Mrs John Knightley into farce.
- Frank Churchill’s ears were a major distraction – he should not have had his hair cut but rather allowed his hair to cover those ears. And the Frank and Jane story was cut to virtually nothing at all.
I did enjoy so much of the movie – it was edgy, funny and moving in places – but I came away knowing once again that no film can really do full justice to that particular novel. I know so much of it by heart and felt that generally, the dialogue stuck closely to Jane Austen’s words.
If you would like to learn more about the novel and its author, do consider purchasing my Reader’s Guide to Emma for just $5 by immediate download. I have updated it to include this latest move adaptation.
I hope the film brings new audiences to the novel, and I’ll love discussing all the details with my friends, but I still cannot forgive that trickle of blood! What are your thoughts?