Unlike a lot of people, the works of Jane Austen are a little new to me. I’ve never read her books in school but eventually saw movies based on her work. Now this technically isn’t the first time I saw a story based on Emma, as 1995’s Clueless is a modern adaptation of it. Since Clueless came out before it, it is a little ironic that this Emma isn’t the first major movie based on Jane Austen’s novel. I wasn’t quite sure I had wanted to see it or not. Gwyneth Paltrow is a rather interesting choice to play the English Emma since she’s American. I heard Ewan McGregor was in it, and I’m a big fan of him, so that was enough for me even if his role in the movie isn’t that important. I also noticed Polly Walker was going to be in it (also a very non-important role) and I liked her in HBO’s Rome TV series which debuted about a decade after Emma.
The story begins with a wedding ceremony. A man named Mr. Weston married a woman named Ms. Taylor in a lovely ceremony. Ms. Taylor was the governess (almost like a second mother or a nanny) to the story’s protagonist Emma Woodhouse who is now pretty much a woman. She guessed that the pair would make a good match and she felt wonderful playing the role of Cupid. Emma decides to set up her friend (and social inferior) Harriet Smith with the perfect husband. A man named Mr. Martin is a simple farmer and is quite taken by Harriet Smith even if she is rather plain and boring compared to more women up the social ladder. He offers Harriet Smith a chance to get married, but due to Emma’s pride, she convinces Harriet to turn the man down even though Harriet Smith liked him back almost as equally.
Convinced that Harriet Smith can do much better than a simple farmer, Emma tries to get a handsome minister named Mr. Elton to be her friend’s new husband. However Emma doesn’t see the facts straight when it comes to these ideas and will be shocked when she realizes her mistakes. The only person to really confront her about it is her sister’s brother-in-law George Knightley. While George is fairly notable among the ranks of the locals, he has a kind heart. When he finds out that Emma convinced Harriet Smith to turn down a good man like Mr. Martin, he is quick to speak his mind on the matter. Will Emma be able to shoot Cupid’s arrow or should she have let destiny make the pieces fall into place?
Overall Emma is not the perfect film, and like a lot of the works I’ve seen based on Jane Austen novels, I only liked it but I didn’t love it. This one is far more of a comedy than the others I’ve seen, so it was a decent change of pace. But the whole nineteenth century English romances can alienate those who are used to the modern world even though I’ll say Emma is certainly a character that you’d never expect from a pre-Victorian Era in terms of independence. Though to be fair again, I will say I did like Clueless a good bit better than 1996’s Emma. While the film did do well with critics back in the 1990’s, they did brag about their Oscar nominations (with one win) but they were only for Best Costumes and Best Original Score.