129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best adaptation I've seen...
I don't normally write Amazon reviews but after watching this adaptation of Emma (and pre-ordering the DVD as soon as it appeared here) I felt compelled to encourage others to do the same. I read Emma over ten years ago, in my teens, and enjoyed the book, but since then have seen the Gwyneth Paltrow film and the Kate Beckinsale TV adaptation and had to admit, they left me...
Published on 28 Oct 2009 by C. Harp
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ELEGY
I still hugely prefer the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow, with its excellent casting, setting and beautiful music.
The problems with this version are:
1. As most of the negative reviews say, this adaptation of the story is horribly anachronistic. The way that the characters behave, the things they say, their body language, mannerisms and the...
Published on 5 Dec 2010 by ELEGY
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Emma that's afraid of being Jane Austen's Emma,
I so wanted this to be a wonderful series.
It had some marvellous ingredients, and without doubt there are many beautiful moments in it. But for me, character and story are more important than gorgeous cinematography (if one has to make a choice). To start with the characters, then...
(1.) The actress playing Emma looked perfect for her in physical terms - beautiful, a sort of stateliness about her that would entitle her at first glance to be described as "handsome" (in accordance with Jane Austen's famous opening line in the novel: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." However, once Romola Garai started moving, gesturing, talking, etc., her acting resembled modern pouting and incessant worrying of her lip and very 21st century grimacing. It detracted from her performance and reminded me of nothing so much as Alicia Silverstone's style of acting (a bit of a coincidence, perhaps? Seeing that Alicia Silverstone portrayed the Emma-based character in "Clueless"?). It's irritating - not in the sense that Emma SHOULD be irritating (as a meddling young woman believing herself to be sensitive to the wishes and desires of others, and even manipulative when it comes to other people's matrimonial plans), but in terms of its being so stylistically wrong.
This poor style of acting and the directing of the actress are probably the main reasons for my considerable disappointment in this film.
I didn't feel Ms Garai's age was a problem. She didn't seem too old for the part of the self-assured almost-21-year-old Emma. However, the silly faces she pulled and the way she used anachronistic facial expressions and unbelievably bad posture and so on made her mental age appear YOUNGER than the "clever" Miss Woodhouse of the novel. Her mental age seemed 17 to me.
The incessant giggles and widely gaping naļve astonishment (during the ball at the Crown, for instance) at the ballroom's decorations were utterly inappropriate. "Emma was smiling with enjoyment", and "The ball proceeded pleasantly" - these are the descriptions Jane Austen gives during this chapter, and none of that indicates there should be indecorum, loud giggles, simpleton-like gazing about, etc. This was probably my least favourite scene.
(2). The actress playing Jane Fairfax was adequate, but not as good as the really beautiful actress in the earlier BBC film version (screenplay by Andrew Davies), which fully realises this image as written by Jane Austen: "Jane Fairfax was very elegant, remarkably elegant; and she had herself the highest value for elegance. Her height was pretty, just such as almost everybody would think tall, and nobody could think very tall; her figure particularly graceful; her size a most becoming medium, between fat and thin, though a slight appearance of ill-health seemed to point out the likeliest evil of the two. Emma could not but feel all this; and then, her face--her features--there was more beauty in them altogether than she had remembered; it was not regular, but it was very pleasing beauty. Her eyes, a deep grey, with dark eye-lashes and eyebrows, had never been denied their praise; but the skin, which she had been used to cavil at, as wanting colour, had a clearness and delicacy which really needed no fuller bloom. It was a style of beauty, of which elegance was the reigning character, and as such, she must, in honour, by all her principles, admire it:--elegance, which, whether of person or of mind, she saw so little in Highbury. There, not to be vulgar, was distinction, and merit."
(3). The actor playing Mr Woodhouse seemed quite good most of the time, but occasionally one could see him "acting" rather than "being". I'm not sure whether this was due to the screenplay and directing rather than to his own acting skills... but this is a role that's been better portrayed.
(4). One of the major pieces of miscasting in this film was that of Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates. I'm sorry; I loved Tamsin Greig in so many roles, but she's completely wrong as Miss Bates who is supposed to be a much older woman and CERTAINLY a much sillier woman. As written in the novels, she is terribly, terribly silly in spite of being so very good-natured, and she is an INCESSANT talker - much worse than as depicted in this film. Here's one of many quotations from the novel which show what I mean: ""Thank you. You are so kind!" replied the happily deceived aunt, while eagerly hunting for the letter.--"Oh! here it is. I was sure it could not be far off; but I had put my huswife upon it, you see, without being aware, and so it was quite hid, but I had it in my hand so very lately that I was almost sure it must be on the table. I was reading it to Mrs. Cole, and since she went away, I was reading it again to my mother, for it is such a pleasure to her--a letter from Jane--that she can never hear it often enough; so I knew it could not be far off, and here it is, only just under my huswife--and since you are so kind as to wish to hear what she says;--but, first of all, I really must, in justice to Jane, apologise for her writing so short a letter--only two pages you see--hardly two--and in general she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, 'Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that chequer-work'--don't you, ma'am?--And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her--every word of it--I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word. And, indeed, though my mother's eyes are not so good as they were, she can see amazingly well still, thank God! with the help of spectacles. It is such a blessing! My mother's are really very good indeed. Jane often says, when she is here, 'I am sure, grandmama, you must have had very strong eyes to see as you do--and so much fine work as you have done too!--I only wish my eyes may last me as well.'" - That is ALL Miss Bates, and it's far from being her longest speech.
Tamsin Greig does her best, but I actually think her being such a good comedienne plays against her here. Prunella Scales played this role in the earlier film version with what seems like a complete unconsciousness of how she was rattling on and on, with a real sense of character - a well-meaning woman who, in spite of meaning well, was both foolish and garrulous. No wonder Jane says in the novel, "[...]the comfort of being sometimes alone!" (although she does say it more in reaction to Mrs Elton than her aunt, admittedly).
(5). The Mrs Elton in the novel is not as lovely as the actress playing her in this series. According to the novel, "Her person was rather good; her face not unpretty; but neither feature, nor air, nor voice, nor manner, were elegant." It seemed to me as though the actress playing her were an also-ran for the part of Emma ("We're not going to give you Emma, my dear, but what about Mrs Elton?") rather than an ideal piece of casting for the impudent, small-minded, name-dropping, self-aggrandised Mrs Elton.
(6). The rest of the cast were mostly fine.
But now comes my largest reason for disliking this version of "Emma"... the screenplay.
What on earth possessed the screenwriter to mess around with pure Austen? The screenplay is peppered with anachronisms, modes of expression that were going for an easy laugh rather than the well-drawn romantic drama of manners and society and human character which the novel is. It's also laced with "explanations" for everyone's behaviour. A child cannot be brought up by someone not his/her own parents without a long explanation; someone can't be an incessant talker without its being "explained" by her mother being silent (this is not in the novel, by the way - it's an invention; apparently Sandy Welch can't conceive of a person being foolish and garrulous by NATURE); and then there's the awful attribution of societal naļvete to Emma. Emma is emotionally more naļve than she realises, true - but she is a well-educated woman of consequence, with as little or as much travel experience as most young women in her class at the time. It seems ludicrous to have to explain this, but young ladies did not go haring off to the seaside and to London as a matter of course in this period. Au contraire - if a girl were making her comeout in London (and this was by no means obligatory), in many cases it would be her first experience out of her own county. The idea of Emma having been tremendously isolated and more stay-at-home than the norm is a pure 21st century interpretation, and it's so inappropriate to see Emma through those eyes.
All of these points marred my enjoyment of the series - so much so that as it drew to a close while I was watching it on DVD, I was shaking my head, muttering to myself "This is so disappointing; this is just not good..." Even some of the lovely aspects of the series were drowned out in my overall experience of it because the annoyingly wrong things were SO annoyingly wrong.
Upon finishing it, I found myself putting on the DVD which starred Kate Beckinsale as Emma, with Mark Strong as Knightley, Raymond Coulthard as a FANTASTIC Frank Churchill, Bernard Hepton as an utterly superb Mr Woodhouse and Samantha Morton (whom I usually don't like) as an ideal Harriet (sweet but simple, with nothing overdone). The first time I saw the DVD, I was slow to warm to Kate Beckinsale's performance of Emma. It seemed a little constrained and cold; but the more times I watched that film version, the more I appreciated the subtlety of this portrayal. It isn't a perfect film version of Emma, but it is a very beautiful and realistic one. Emma is SUPPOSED to behave according to the class distinctions of her time, after all.
Perhaps a perfect film or series version of "Emma" will be created one day - but in the meantime, I am very satisfied with the film version...
... and sadly, bitterly disappointed with this series of the story.
Three stars, as there were some lovely things about it.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great BBC Adaptation,
5.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful drama!!!,
5.0 out of 5 stars PERIOD DRAMA AT ITS BEST,
5.0 out of 5 stars For HD fans, there IS a Blu-Ray version available,
Guess your way through the Spanish menus and you will be rewarded with a gloriously sharp version with original English audio.
5.0 out of 5 stars By far the best adaptation of Emma I have seen!,
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely adaptation of a classic,
4.0 out of 5 stars review of Emma,
5.0 out of 5 stars Love love love,
This is a must see!!!!!!!!
You feel intrigued by the world of Emma and the storyline
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Emma [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] by Romola Garai (DVD - 2010)