Before this one came out, there were some people who liked the 1996 Miramax version, and those who preferred the A&E one, but with this mini-series, most of them were united and this became their favorite. It is greatly admired all around, and very popular considering it has only been around for less than a year and a half. It’s special to me for being the first Jane Austen movie to come out since I knew about her, and I had the pleasure of seeing it when it aired for the first time.
It’s full of wonderful acting, good costumes, a nice soundtrack (which I have), and really seems to capture the spirit of the book. Emma’s character development could hardly have been done better, in my opinion. It’s long enough to let the story develop and not rush through it. There are only a handful of things I can criticize, but three are: it could be a little more old-fashioned; in fact, the people who made it said they were trying to make it likable to ‘modern audiences’, but it is still authentic. Another thing, I could not be satisfied with the Jane Fairfax. She was too…mouse-like, and not like the “elegant” creature described in the book (but at least she had the right hair color.) The way she talked is what mostly did it, I think. The other thing is, one of my favorite quotes from Emma is excluded – where Mr Knightley says “Brother and sister? No, indeed.” before he dances with Emma. But, the dance itself is gorgeous. The music is lovely, the dance is so elegant and beautifully done, and the acting is captivating. I feel happy every time I watch it. The whole ball, in fact, is my favorite part of the movie. They did an impressive job with the Elton-slighting-Harriet-and-Knightley-to-the-rescue scene. (Perfect misery to perfect happiness, in Harriet’s words.)
This version could be argued as the closest to the book, but it is too short to really be compared. However, I’d say this version has the most direct quotes from the book. I rather like the Emma in this one. (All the Emmas are different in their portrayals, and with this one I think the character development could be better.) I like her looks – she looks young, and a brown haired Emma is by no means disagreeable to me. (I often refer to this movie as “the brown hair Emma”.) The Mr Knightley, however, I am not satisfied with. He’s the only one who is tall like the book says, but other than that, he did not strike me as very Knightley-ish, in looks or acting. My favorite Jane Fairfax is in this version.
It’s very authentic-looking, and I love movies like this one where you get an ‘old-fashioned feel’, as opposed to a modern one. I liked the dances in this version, by the way. I've even done one of them, and danced to some of the songs. (English Country Dancing is so fun!)
Emma: Kate Beckinsale
Mr Knightley: Mark Strong
Length: 1 hr. 47 min.
My grade: A
My grade: A
This is probably the version least like the book, but it stays faithful enough to the story for me to tolerate it. Indeed, it is enjoyable, but it is more modern than the rest. The script, the lighting, even the clothes (especially the clothes pictured on the DVD case) are that way. They also added in and changed things, but nothing to make me angry. Here's a side note: if you read Jane Austen’s books, you may notice that she rarely describes people’s looks – and if she does, it’s done very slyly. In Emma, though, she gives quite a good description of Harriet Smith, and this movie did not attend to it. Anyways, I liked Mr Knightley on this one (but he is not my favorite since the new one came out), and I thought the Miss Bates did well. Emma was all right, but.....hmm.
Emma: Gwyneth Paltrow
Mr Knightley: Jeremy Northam
Length: 2 hrs. (121 min, to be exact)
My grade: B+
My grade: B+
I very recently finished this version in preparation for this post. It's very slow-moving and seems like a play – perhaps even more than other old BBC mini-series. I did not care for the person who played Emma…I didn’t think she looked young enough, even though she was…and she’s not someone I would describe as pretty (and Emma is supposed to be). I didn’t like her acting either, and in this version Emma seemed like even more of a snob. As far as accuracy goes, I think that if one made a list of what was added and not included, it wouldn’t be much shorter than the others (especially the BBC and A&E versions). They did pay heed to how Harriet was described in the book, though. And I like her pink dress.
Emma: Doran Godwin
Mr Knightley: John Carson
Length: 4 hours
My grade: C
My grade: C
My favorite is the BBC version from 2009, and it’s not a hard decision for me. There are few who don’t consider that one their favorite. I’ve seen it 9 times (shocking!), and finally bought it very recently with some birthday/Christmas money.
I love trailers, and this one is so fun to watch…it makes me feel happy, "nonsensical girl" that I am. ;-)
However, before January of 2010 when I first saw the new version, the 1996 A&E one was my favorite. In honor of that, here’s a promo for it. (And if one cannot bear to watch a 4-hour mini-series, this is the one I’d recommend.)
So, which one is your favorite? (Please vote only if you have seen 2 or more versions to compare)