Emma. ★★★½

“Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way,” Jane Austen wrote in “Emma,” justifying the frivolous nature of the last novel she published before her death two years later. The central purpose — maybe even the loftiest ambition — of any film adapted from Austen’s book should be to support that claim, and to do so with enough conviction to subvert the universally acknowledged truth that some works of art are more serious than others. (Let’s take a moment to observe that “Clueless” was a worthy update because of Cher Horowitz’s Valley Girl vapidity, not in spite of it.)

Enter: Director Autumn de Wilde’s lavish but loyal “Emma” (stylized “Emma.”), an indulgent movie about indulgent people that dares to imagine how — on a long enough timeline — the whole of human existence might be no more important than a straw hat shaped like a fortune cookie, or a navy blue shirt popping against a mustard peacoat, or the romantic misfortunes of an unsophisticated teenage girl as they reverberate through a vain pocket of the English gentry.

This confection of a period comedy leans so hard into the solipsism of Austen’s story that it might as well be set in a pre-Victorian Westworld, but if “Emma” is a pound of icing on a tablespoon of cake, de Wilde makes sure that every bite delivers its own discrete sugar high. She exalts the silliness of it all until even the most asinine details feel deadly serious, and nothing in the world seems to matter beyond who Miss Harriet Smith will marry.

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