Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Emma (1996) starring Kate Beckinsale

Summary: Emma Woodhouse, 'handsome, clever, and rich' is a young woman living in the village of Highbury. Her matchmaking efforts with the silly Harriet Smith cause heartache for Harriet and disagreement with the family friend George Knightley. Further complications arise when her former governess's stepson, handsome Frank Churchill, comes to Highbury. But when, I think I'll stop now to avoid spoilers, in case you haven't read or watched this before.

Pros/Cons (This means that I'm not really sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing ;D)
- Mr. Elton; he looks a bit too good for the part and I would be happy if Mr. Knightley had his looks.  But when I got on his annoyingness made me ignore all the good looks he ever had.
- Miss Bates; sort of hit-and-miss, sometimes she was really good, and sometimes not.  One thing I enjoyed though, is that it seemed like there was a little bit of resemblance between her and Jane.  If you want a good Miss Bates, either watch the sympathetic portrayal in Emma 2009, or the silly, endearing one in Emma 1997. 
- Harriet Smith was rather pretty, and sweet but not as gorgeous and silly as she could have been. 

Frank & Jane
 - The way they concentrated on Frank and Jane's romance was nice.  I guess it would have been more accurate to show more of Harriet, but honestly, watching the mystery around the two that are secretly engaged is a lot nicer than watching Harriet.
- It is unforgivable if a good movie is too short.  This Emma was short, but somehow they managed to stuff so much in, and make it so faithful, that it isn't as bad as a short movie normally is. 

Mr. Knightley
-Mr Knightley!!!  I'm surprised the director could get away with such a horrible miscast. He is rarely shown as the brotherly, gentlemanly Mr. Knightley, although I admit that this might be the fault of the screenwriter.  As to his manners, I would propably prefer Robert Martin's.  And to have a Mr. Knightley that reminds you of Mr. Wickham with a touch of Frank Churchill?  Something is certainly wrong........
- Mrs. Elton.  You might recognize her as Louisa Hurst from Pride and Prejudice 1995.  She was as annoying as ever, but something didn't work.  I'm not sure what.

Emma and Harriet

- Kate Beckinsale's performance of Emma.  To me Emma has always had lighter hair, but this did just seem to suit her very well. When I saw pictures of her I was astounded that someone who looks like that could play Emma successfully, but Kate Beckinsale did it wonderfully.  I'm not saying she's my favourite Emma, because I still love Gwyneth Paltrow and Romola Garai, but she certainly did an amazing job.
- Frank Churchill looks a little too old for his role, and doesn't seem to be very villainous.  I might even call him a minor hero! *hears gasps from everyone who's reading this* At worst I'd agree with him that he was an impudent dog, and leave it at that.  
- Olivia Williams was P.E.R.F.E.C.T. as Jane Fairfax.  Very reserved, but sweet, beautiful, accomplished and elegant.  I also love the way the camera would jump to her whenever Frank said something that she could be unhappy about. 
- Emma's daydreams were very interesting and well done and it was nice to be able to see into her mind. 
- In 'The Costumes' there was this something very regencyish and elegant that sometimes doesn't show itself even in the other Austen adaptions.  I can't explain it, but it was there. 

Overall Impression
This is a lovely version of Emma, especially for those not-so-crazy-Janeites who prefer shorter movies.  The casting and acting of Mr. Knightley is a big mistake, (I noticed that he wasn't on the front or back cover - no wonder!) but other than that it was very well done and very faithful to the book.  I think I would give it 3 1/2 stars.  



Melody said...

This was my favorite before the new Emma came out...I thought Kate did very well as Emma (until I saw Romola...). I agree, Jane Fairfax was GREAT! Definitely the best Jane Fairfax of the group!!

I also agree that Mr. Knightley was perfectly awful! >.< He was always scowling! Although if you read my post on either Mr. Knightley or the Emma movies you'd already know I think that.

I really like this movie though...although it is too short...I could understand if someone considered it the closest to the book. A lot of the quotes were the same - the movie is just to short to really be compared to, say the 2009 Emma, which as a lot more of the story!

This is the one I'd recommend to *those people* who don't like 4-hour mini-series...which I love!

I think you were the one that liked the other 1996 one the best (so funny that they both came out the same year!) but I guess we can just agree to disagree on that! :)

Ella said...

I've only watched Emma (2009),but I would like to watch this version.
Good post!