Emma. ★★★½

In the quiet village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman who serves as the mistress of the house of Hartfield, spends her life trying to play match-maker to the residents of the town, including her friends Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) and Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson). However, her selfish attempts at this goal catch the attention of her oldest friend George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) and he must find a way to convince her to change her ways...

Notable as one of the last novels written by Jane Austen before her death in 1817, Emma, compared to the numerous film adaptations of her other works such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, hasn’t had much of an impact on the big screen. Although there have been numerous live TV adaptations from the BBC and CBS networks over the last century, the only notable film adaptations of this novel about a selfish young woman trying to be a matchmaker have been 1995’s Clueless, a loose modern day teen comedy reimagining that has gained a life of its own as one of the best high school franchises of the 1990s and a more straightforward adaptation in 1996 directed by Douglas McGrath and starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse. 

Autumn De Wilde, best known for her work in photography, makes her directorial debut with this entertaining new adaptation even if the comedy isn’t as funny as Clueless. The novel itself is hard to adapt due to how deliberately unlikable the main protagonist is, so it’s understandable that some of the comedy, as with the other two adaptations, is played up to make Emma herself a bit more tolerable.

Anya Taylor-Joy does a good job in portraying both the smart and the selfish aspects of Emma, while Bill Nighy gives one of his most entertaining performances in months as the eccentric Mr. Woodhouse and Johnny Flynn brings the right level of charm and strictness in the role of George Knightley. 

Overall, although Christopher Blauvelt’s cinematography and the editing of this adaptation of Emma makes the film feel like a TV film rather than a theatrical film, the impressive acting and the amazing production design, makes this one of the better versions of Austen’s most controversial novel.