Sunday, May 8, 2011

Emma: The Movies

2009 (BBC)
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.)
   I’d say this version is the easiest to understand while following the book closely – it has time to explain more, for one thing, as I mentioned. And describing the backgrounds of Emma, Frank, and Jane F. at the beginning was very helpful too. Really, I could do a whole long post about this version…and this is much too long already, so I’ll stop now. ;)
Emma: Romola Garai
Mr Knightley: Jonny Lee Miller
Length: 4 hours (four 1-hour episodes)
My grade: A+

1996 (A&E)
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

1996 (Miramax)
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+

1972 (BBC)
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 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)
Which is your favorite version of Emma?
1972 (BBC)
1996 (Miramax)
1996 (A and E)
2009 (BBC)

 free polls

If you’ve seen the 2009 version, here is a really fun post at Old-Fashioned Charm. I laughed so much when I read it!

Also, some lovely Emma banners can be found here from Elegance of Fashion:


Elegance of Fashion said...

The only version of Emma that I haven't seen that you've listed here was the oldest one. My favorite has to be the most recent one. I haven't seen the dark hair Emma version in a really long time, but I've seen the Gwyneth Paltrow version a second time a couple of months ago. After seeing the newest one and how it took time to tell the story and introduce the characters, the Gwyneth Paltrow version seemed too rushed to me (probably because they didn't have as much time to tell the story).

Thanks for the shout-out to my blog!

Charity U said...

I love the 2009 one...but guess what. AMAZON IS OUT (got that? OUT) of the soundtrack. I could get the Mp3's...but I much prefer the CD. :P Oh well. How annoying!

Good post, I enjoyed it.

Melody said...

Yes, I know! And it was also more expensive than the DVD!!! I just got the MP3 album, and put it onto a CD myself. :) (And it's a lot cheaper that way!) But I like CDs too, with their original covers and all. :-/

Charity U said...

More expensive than the DVD? Wow, I hadn't realized that! Yes, I wish I could have the right CD cover and all...oh well.

I actually popped over here to say, I saw how you voted on the Tournament! Or rather, your comment about how you voted. :) We were different on quite a few was interesting. :) But I enjoyed seeing what you said.

Marian said...

Emma is my favorite Jane Austen story, and I just love the 2009 version...great cast, lovely costumes, good music, and a witty script. I've seen it at least twice, but I'd like to see it again, it's that good. :) I also like the '96 Miramax version, because of Jeremy Northam--for years he *was* Mr Knightley to me (now he's at a tie with Miller). Haven't seen the oldest version. I saw the A&E one once, but I can't stand Mr Knightley in that one.

Melody said...

He's my second favorite Mr Knightley. :) He is probably handsomer...but he was actually younger than Knightley was supposed to be, by a few years, and J. Miller was exactly the right age. hehe I think his acting was better (more Knightley-ish). I don't like the Knightley in the A&E one either, but I like the rest of the movie enough for me to tolerate him. :)

Melody said...

Oh, and I rather liked the way the new Mr. Knightley looked - it suited his character. :)

Tristans_Isolde said...

Lovely post! The 2009 one is definitely my favourite too! I hated all of the versions I had watched before it (A&E,Miramax and 1972)I found the 1972 one a little boring, and the other two were just not close enough to the book, they just didn't develop the character of Emma enough and by the end of the movie I still found her an annoying snob which is not how it is supposed to be! :) but the 2009 version was absolutely gorgeous, I loved every moment, Romola Garai was just wonderful as Emma.
I agree with you, Jane Fairfax was not cast right, she was very mousy haha :)

Jessica said...

As you know, I love the 2009 Emma! :-)
I tried to vote, but I'm not sure if it worked. It took me to the poll site and asked me if I wanted to create a poll?!

Marian said...

@Tristans_Isolde: Agreed, Romola's Emma is definitely easier to sympathize with. In fact, I actually like her, whereas I never did before. :)

Melody said...

I'm inclined to think it worked, because after I saw your comment there was another vote for it. You must have accidentally clicked where it says 'free polls'. ;-)

You know, another thing I liked about the 2009 version, is the relationship between Emma and Frank. After a while, it did seem like they were joking around, teasing, etc. like it said in the others it would appear as flirting, but it was like they had a silent understanding with each other. ;-)

Charity U said...

Melody, I agree about Frank and Emma's relationship. Good way to put it.

Hey, I was wondering, I'm going to be gone for a while in June. Would you be interested in guest posting on Austenitis? You could do a review, or anything related to Jane Austen or pretty much whatever you want. If you're interested, let me know!

Melody said...

That sounds very interesting, I might like to do that. How does it work? But, when in June is it? I'll be unavailable part of the time, too. :)

OldFashionedCharm said...

Thank you for linking to my blog and my Mr. Knightley post. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it!
My favorite Emma adaptation is definitely the 2009 miniseries but like you the 1996 (A&E) adaptation was my favorite before that one came out.
By the way, I recently sent you a message through blogger and it should show up in your e-mail inbox. I hope you hear from you soon!

~Miss Laurie
Old-Fashioned Charm :)

Holly said...

The newest version is nice,b ut NOTHING beats the Miramax version to me...I will love it eternally forever :)

Would you rather hear the story...

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