Best Foot Forward: Our Review of ‘Emma’ (2020)

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 27, 2020
Best Foot Forward: Our Review of ‘Emma’ (2020)

Sometimes certain works demand multiple adaptations in order to really get it…

The works of Jane Austen have certainly hit the big screen on multiple occasions with a wide range of results and this time with Emma we get something that’s got a sharper wit about it than we have seen in other iterations and it makes for a slightly saucy and more entertaining affair than previous attempts.

Handsome, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse (Anna Taylor-Joy) is a restless queen bee without rivals in her sleepy little town. In this glittering satire of social class and the pain of growing up, Emma must adventure through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along.

While it’s got the occasional hiccup and lagging moment, this Emma is actually a fair bit of a scream thanks to some very well executed and dead-pan moments of humor by a leading lady and an ensemble cast that are genuinely leaning into it.

With director Autumn de Wilde taking the reins for her very first feature after an extensive track record of doing music videos gives us a visually sumptuous affair that is designed to the hilt and looks like a million bucks as it washes this world in some hyper brilliant colours giving it all a very accentuated feel to it all.  She’s unquestionably creating a different world than we’re used to for Jane Austen adaptations and we absolutely love it because it creates an atmosphere for genuine surprise and some genuine comedy inside the drama of all the social manoeuvrings.

The script from Eleanor Catton has some real cutting bite to it and will successfully generate some laughs.  Unfortunately though one of the only real draw backs on this experience is that it’s just a hair too long as it falls in love with its own words a little too much at times and it could do with trimming itself out by 15 minutes or so,  Thankfully this all gets forgotten thanks to some genuinely memorable performances.

Anna Taylor-Joy really makes her presence felt here in the title role and as an actor who is more than capable to carry a film entirely by herself.  She’s the puppet master of love pulling all the strings of those around her until it all blows up in her face.  She embraces the material with a very dry wit and allows for those comedic moments to breathe and really hit like the material demands that they should.  She’s cold and calculating as well as arrogant and flawed and Taylor-Joy makes it all look easy.  With some brilliant supporting players around her like Mia Goth, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart and Bill Nighy she’s got plenty of room to breathe and gives us some genuinely entertaining moments as she spars with George Knightley who is deftly played by Johnny Flynn.

Flynn and Taylor-Joy successfully play this material by dropping the period pretense of love and romance and give us these two characters as equals in love and in life.  As they both awkwardly manage the social landminds that are all around them we slowly but surely fall in love with them and their place in goings on around them all.

In spite of some mild bloating in the material, this new adaption Emma works because it leaves the pomp and circumstance of the period vibrantly in the background while letting this social comedy of errors and romance shine with its best foot forward.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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