Emma. ★★★

I'm not fond of Emma as a Jane Austen novel in general. I'm still waiting on a non-tv film production of Persuasion, but alas, it seems like the general viewing public has more affection for Emma Woodhouse than I can muster. Because here we go again. Like we needed another film after 2009's mini-series after the late 1990s Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle. Can we acknowledge there are other Jane Austen novels we can adapt every decade or so? ..no? Well, fine then.

[clears throat] Anyhoo--

It's always a good sign to be reminded of period Jane Austen masterclass film in comedy, Pride & Prejudice (2004), so Emma. ended up being a pleasant surprise. While P&P abandoned Regency era attire, Emma. whole-heartedly embraced it and I could not stop swooning over the costumes, both for the men and women. Them high collars on men. And actual hair. None of that side buzzcut crap or whatever. [fans self] And the estates. My word.

The film might be called Emma, but I found the emotional core of the film, much like the core of P&P to belong to a Knightley, one George Knightley, played by Johnny Flynn. Don't get me wrong. Anya Taylor-Joy can act, but I struggle with Emma and I think it took a good 3-4 hours for me to sympathise with Romola Garai in the tv production of Emma and that might as well have been a case of Stockholm Syndrome. Anya couldn't have done it in the 2 hour runtime with the ice cold script handed to her. Johnny Flynn's the best George Knightley I've seen. In other productions, I'm always aghast to see him develop feelings for Emma in the last act, like they just materialised out of thin air, but here, his emoting is so obvious from even almost the first act that there's no problem buying it as truth.

I was waiting for that big oh my god moment in Emma., and while it definitely was dramatic, it never quite reached the camp hysterics of P&P and never quite gelled as an absurdist comedy or deeply affecting drama, BUT-- Johnny running did it for me. Singularly best scene in the 2 hours is him scrambling to Emma's door past a meadow and stone wall, out of breath, and meeting her glance, having the moment stolen by Ms Smith's ankle injury. I mean, what can I say? He's "very fond of walking." Had the film allowed itself those kind of theatrics more often, I would have been head over heels over Emma..

I guess, while I continue to wait for Persuasion, I'll have to be satisfied with a stellar casting choice of Johnny Flynn, re-watch the running scene to death and acknowledge a one Bill Nighy who was just too precious with his grumpy stares. Seriously, half the man's lines were non-verbal. The man's a genius. Underutilised! Give me more grumpy Bill Nighy complaining about drafts and the weather! Bravo, good sir!

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