Most helpful critical review
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
This BBC production leaves you ultimately unsatisfied.
on 11 September 2006
First, despite it being an old 1972 BBC production, the film quality was a lot better than other BBC 1970/80s Austen productions. Colours were bright and fresh.
The problem is with the two leading characters, Mr Knightly and Emma. It's true that Mr Knightly is supposed to be an older gentleman but he still needs to be handsome and debonair for the whole character to work. His costume was wholly unflattering showing his belly through his elasticated trousers. This Mr Knightly was too stuffy.
Emma was too stiff throughout the whole performance. The whole point of the character was that even though she made the most awful mistakes with her "know it all" attitude and meddled in other's lives, her character remains loved due to her charismatic personality and natural charm. The climax to the drama comes when Emma goes too far, insulting poor Mrs Bates and even her charm doesn't save her this time from Mr Knightly's justified anger. Mr Knightly takes her to task as only he can and it is at this point that Emma finally appreciates how much she respects him and dare she admit?, has strong feelings for him. Unfortunately my wife and I found this Emma lacking in that essential charm that she needs to pull off the character so that when she started trying to manipulate the lives of people around her, she simply appeared shamefully mean with no redeeming features.
Romantic chemistry between the two characters was non existent. In the book, Mr Knightly desperately wishes that Emma would not treat him like an older brother and see his true feelings for her. Ironically, this Mr Knightly behaves throughout as if he actually wants to be her older brother!
What a shame because the supporting cast were perfect, particularly Emma's father who was brilliantly played, as was the charming Mr Churchill. One slight oddity though. Jane Fairfax appeared to speak English with a foreign accent. Perhaps the actress was trying too hard to put on a posh accent and it came out "My Fair Lady" - "The rain in Spain..." style.
This BBC production leaves you ultimately unsatisfied. Instead, I'd go for the Kate Beckinsale / Andrew Davis production of Emma (1997). Despite the feeling that the story is being rushed, the characters have all the essential ingredients and the performance is far more enjoyable.