Sunday, September 15, 2013

Emma 2009 and The Things It Gets Away With

In some recent musings about Jane Austen adaptations, I was considering the piece of delightfulness that is Emma 2009.  I LOVE IT.  It's amazing, it's adorable, and I want to call it perfect, but the fact is it ISN'T perfect... it just somehow gives the impression of being so.

It has a wide range of admirers, too.  I know several people who prefer the 2005 version of P&P (cough, COUGH) who have a very proper appreciation for Emma 2009.  And I've never yet met a Janeite who doesn't hold 2009 as her favorite, having given it a fair chance.  Even random people who are not very accustomed to period drama can even enjoy it a lot.

Anyways. Went off on a bit of a rabbit trail there--what I was going to say is: Pride and Prejudice (1995) is my favorite JA movie, and I don't even call that perfect, yet I'd say it's more accurate to its novel and JA and the Regency period than Emma is.  It's really rather amusing how much Emma09 can get away with, and its admirers still love it to pieces.

Such as what?  Allow me to tell you what, in my opinion, are The Problems With Emma 2009.  All the ones I can think of right now, that is.  And be forewarned that I'll also go into Auto Defense Mode, which clicks on when anything or anybody I love is criticized, and start explaining why it is that I put up with them all. ;)

  • It's just a little too modern. Starting with the opening.  What is up with all the weird capital letters where they shouldn't be and lowercase where they should? Sorry, that just isn't Jane Austen, peoples, besides for it just being something that irks me.  Yet I can somehow never feel actually disgusted with it, even though it is annoying. The beginning is so FUN even if it isn't period authentic or grammatically correct. (Or would that be capitalization-ally correct? :P Actually, I think there is a word for what I want to say but it isn't coming to me, and probably when Amy comments she will tell me what it is. Haha.) 
  • And then there is the rest of what I mean by it being too modern... they actually designed the body language, etc. to be for a modern audience, and this definitely does show... but despite that, and despite the brighter colors and such that don't give it the old-England feel that some adaptations do, it still seems old-fashioned... or at least not-modern. I'm still satisfied. And I still say that the Gwyneth Paltrow version is much more modern. 
  • People complain about Emma herself acting too immature... I think this ties in with the above. They were trying to make it so a modern audience could connect... and I don't really condone that.  But I still think it was borderline acceptable, haha. Plus it gives more of a chance to show how she matures during the story, because by the end you can see a visible difference--she acts much more grown-up and graceful. And even at the beginning, she still acted more that way when in company. It was in her own home and around people she'd known all her life (like Mr. Knightley) that she was less particular. And I don't mind her being bubbly and animated--I think it goes very well with Emma. Besides, the facial expressions are just too hilarious to want to miss, and if you tell me they are overdone, I will just have to disagree with you.
  • And in keeping with that general theme, there are a few historical inaccuracies... but they are usually for the sake of the story, not because they didn't care about being accurate.  One that comes to mind is when Harriet is at Hartfield for dinner the first time, and Emma is silently teaching her not to tuck her napkin into her dress (she's copying Mr. Knightley) but to put it on her lap, and that when you're eating soup, rather than scooping towards yourself as if you're shoveling, you should tilt the spoon away from yourself so that if your hand slips you can fling soup on the person sitting across from you instead of splattering all over your new evening gown.  Harriet would already have known these sorts of things--proper etiquette and manners would have been taught at the boarding school. But... it's just a hilarious scene.
  • Which brings me to the subject of Harriet In General. (My, this is all tying together nicely, isn't it?)  She's just too... stupid. What other word is there.  Also silly, perhaps, but yes, stupid. Empty of Head. ;) She's never supposed to be the brightest crayon in the box, but they went a bit overboard, I think, trying to get that point across. Especially in the scene pictured above. But again... that scene is hilaaarious. "Courtship, Harriet! See, here, and... and here." And overall, I still think she's the best Harriet, too.
  • That's not tying in nicely with anything else, so let's just go now and talk about my Favorite Part Of The Movie. The baaaaall scene. *pauses for a moment to indulge in a happy sigh* The whole of the ball is delightful, but my favorite scene is the one where Emma And Mr. Knightley Dance. It is the cutest, sweetest, most delightful, most romantical... I tell you, I could write an entire post gushing and squealing about why I love it so much and I'm not usually one prone to Fangirling. (As Some Of You may know, cough.)  Buuuuut, there was one teeny, weeny problem, and that is that they had to go and exclude what is one of my very favorite quotes in the book. (Just go read the last few paragraphs of chapter 38.) *narrows eyes and growls* In fact the first time I ever saw this version, I was sitting there just WAITING for the quote, and it didn't happen and I was like, but, but but... no... wait...  However, the following scene is so perfect that I cannot but say it makes up for it. Especially if you've been watching the whole movie. It's lovely by itself, but if you're "into" the store it's all the better. :D
  • Now let's take this random moment to talk about Jane.  This Miss Fairfax is not my favorite. The closest to my idea of what she should be in the book was in the A&E Emma.  Laura Pyper just didn't cut it for me... her looks were wrong; her figure somehow wasn't graceful or... I dunno... willowy enough, haha, and then her voice too is not at all what I would imagine when reading the book.  I guess I only mention this because it's pretty much the only character in the movie who isn't my favorite representation. (Okay, Frank and Miss Bates sort of tie with a couple others for me, for rather different reasons, but I thought they played their characters to full potential in this one, and I didn't have any problem with their being selected, whereas neither is true for Laura Pyper.)  That said, though, she was still fine, and not unfaithful to the character. She never made me mad. ;)
  • And since we're talking about Jane, let's give Frank a turn, because I have a couple bones to pick about him although they aren't in his acting, they're in the script. And this is rather an example of several similar things--they do throw extra random stuff they made up into the story here and there, like Emma and Harriet happening upon Frank before he actually comes to visit, as though he'd come very close to doing so and then turned back. And it was never really fully explained, besides what he said to Emma, but as we know, Frank isn't very honest. (Or frank. :P) Maybe he was deliberating because he thought it would be too obvious if he showed up right after Jane did?  Anyway, it made for a funny scene later, I have to say. "I have heard so much about you, it is almost as if we had already met!" Once again I forgive Sandy Welch (the scriptwriter), because it's not unfaithful to Jane Austen's Emma even if it isn't exactly what was in the book.
  • But then there's this. AHEM. It's one thing I have without anything to say in its defense.  Frank would never have put his head on Emma's lap, can I hear it for HISTORICAL INACCURACY, that would be VERY inappropriate??  Emma would never have permitted it, either.  People wouldn't have behaved in that fashion, even as a joke.  And besides all that, it pretty much makes me hate Frank altogether and he's always nowhere near my favorite character, haha.
  • Aaaand something the last one brought to mind... the Box Hill Scolding Scene.  Mr. Knightley wasn't quite right.  This is the only time in the entire thing I can say that, because I think Jonny Lee Miller's portrayal is pretty much perfect.  But in the book this scene is so very touching... you really get the feeling that Mr. Knightley is feeling disappointed in Emma and fearing for Frank's influence on her, and truly wanting to help her as a friend, in addition to being somewhat angry on behalf of Miss Bates.  In this scene, it was mostly just Mr. Knightley Come in a Huff to Tell Emma Off rather than, like in the book, explaining to her what she did wrong and why and it may perhaps be a bit heated, but it really ended quite tenderly and it makes you feel sorry for Emma and Mr. Knightley and Miss Bates all at the same time. And also increases your admiration for Mr. Knightley. ;)  Also, Emma is supposed to turn around after a while so that Mr. Knightley can't see the emotions she's going through (and if he did he might know that he'd already succeeded, haha)

  • And lastly, most of the book-to-screen dialogue is not as accurate in a lot of spots as I would like.  Which is another one of those funny things... somehow they manage to do this without it feeling inaccurate and you can say "oh yeah, this is a really good representation of the book!" I don't know how. But they do. 

And now we come to the conclusion of my rambling. (And I am putting a picture of the conclusion of the movie. Because it's the best. I think my favorite period drama ending evah. :D)  So anyways... despite everything, it's one of my favorite Jane Austen movies, almost tied for #1, and I never seem to get tired of watching it. (I've seen it thirteen times, folks. Cough. And 1/4. :P)  It can just get away with anything... and if I was going to write a post like this only discussing what I adore about the movie... heh, if you think this is long, that would be reeeeeeeally long. It would probably have to turn into a series.



Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the impropriety of Frank putting his head on Emma's lap as that just wouldn't happen back then. I think the producers stuck it in to emphasise how silly and embarrassing Emma & Frank were being - I squirmed so much during that picnic!! I have to say though, after watching the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma first, I was very very relieved to have a much nicer looking Frank! I liked his acting, he made you feel sorry for him even though he was shockingly selfish and treated people abominably.

And Johnny Lee Miller is the perfect Mr. Knightley. He looks exactly like Mr. Knightley should and I prefer him a teeny bit to Mr. Darcy.... although I'd still like to live at Pemberley! :)

- The Elf

Carol Joy said...

It's funny you just posted this, because I rewatched this only yesterday! I sorta planned to watch only half of it as I started a puzzle...but ended up watching the whole thing. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but a lot, I ADORE it, it is a BEAUTIFUL movie! I did watch it 3 times in 10 min segments on YouTube when it was the only way to watch it before it was released in the US.

(And Emma was my least favorite book to read--it was my first back in HS I think--I remember having a hard time with Miss Bates' talking so much.)

As much as I revel in the beauty of this movie, I do have to agree with a couple of your criticisms (it's totally cool to criticize something you love). Everytime I watch it, I too am sad for the lack of 'Indeed we are not' line--I did go read that convo in the book just now, and while much else is close, it's SUCH a great line that it's a shame it's omitted! I do love Jeremy Northam saying it in GP Emma though. And the dance is delightful, the music perfect, and I found myself emotional during that scene yesterday because it's so great, haha.

I do feel so bugged by Frank putting his head in Emma's lap. As you said, even he would not have done that--and Emma certainly wouldn't have let him. Of any Austen male character, I think Willoughby or Wickham to be the most likely. As much as I too am not necessarily a Frank fan, I think that was beyond his impropriety.

I am not really bothered by the modern-izing feeling that they gave the movie in general, and I adored the credits.

I've never thought of the disconnect with Mr. Knightley's last scolding. Huh, I have to let that sink in and darn it, I'll just have to watch the movie again sometime, so I can think more about it. There is a little of his compassion missing there I suppose, but it hasn't bothered me. I think I see him getting so frustrated with her/Frank through the whole previous scene that I forgive his carelessness. I thought it helped us see that Emma finally 'got it' and truly 'bitterly' regretted her treatment of Miss Bates.

Okay...I think that's plenty to say on the subject--it's like my own review! Haha...

Anonymous said...

This is the best movie. Definitely in my top 3 Austen movies. I won't reply to everything you said, but I have to say that the box hill scolding scene is one of my favorites, and is one of the main reasons I LOVE this Mr. Knightley. I just think he's perfect in it.
One other thing that always bothers me, because of how it's different from the book, is that when someone who doesn't know the story starts to watch it, from the first scene they're going to assume that Mr. Knightley and Emma will get together. It seems natural and obvious, while in the book, it's not at all like that.
But yes, this movie. <3

kaymck89 said...

I was so happy to see this! Let me be the first Janeite of your acquaintance to have given this version a chance and still prefer another.
I have to say I do enjoy this one (I also enjoy the '05 P&P even though it's not the best), but it irks me in some ways. Some of the same ways you mention, such as the general modernizing of their manners, Jane Fairfax, and the omission of "Brother and sister? No indeed." (Who's idea was that anyway! It ruined my whole first viewing of it!)
But my favorite version is the A&E film with Kate Beckinsale. Those actors embody the characters for me, and I've never been able to see anyone else in the same roles as portraying them better.
So thank you for bringing this version of Emma to task. :) I suppose you could say it is rather like Emma herself: it pretends to be more accomplished than it is and gets away with laziness because it is beautiful and clever.

Miss Jane Bennet said...

*Gasp* How dare you criticize my favorite Austen movie?
But I agree with most of your points- in fact, all of them. I also agree with the defense of Emma against those points. :D
This is a pretty short comment, but I agree with everything you and Carol Joy said, so I guess I'll leave it at that. :)

Kiri Liz said...

My absobloominglutely favorite JA story! In both book and film. Yep, Ramola Garai is my favorite Emma, yet I'd have to agree they did get a few things wrong. Notably, is Frank's actions during the picnic. *facepalm* It does seem like the film makers were trying to go a little more modern with this adaption, considering all the points you made, and while I'm not totally keen on all of the modernizations, I do think that they give this film a uniqueness. There's a liveliness that the other Emma lack to bring to the screen, and I feel that it captures more of the true story of Emma, a romance gone wrong for the matchmaker.

And on the character of Emma herself, I like how she's presented as immature in the beginning because I love characters that learn and grow within a story. If she had ended and started as the same immature Emma, why would Mr. Knightley want to marry her? Or vice versa, if she had been mature from the start, why would he have lectured and scolded her as he did? And yes, I love her facial expressions. :)

I could go on and on, but I think I'll end this comment before I have to pull out my soapbox. Lovely post, Melody. Very much enjoyed reading it.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Pretty much what you've said is justifiable and I agree with. I did like Laura Pyper, though, but probably because she was different from the 1996 and 1997 Jane Fairfax (I could have sworn they were almost the same person). Laura's Jane wasn't as elegant as she was supposed to be, but the other Janes were elegant and more accurate to the book.

But what you said about this Emma being a little too modern, I agree with you: it's one of those things that you notice, but nevertheless still like the miniseries as a whole. I think it's more pronounced in the first episode (just the way Emma talks, moves, and gestures is quite modern), but it gets lesser in the other episodes.

And the Frank Churchill and Emma at Box Hill: YES! I almost always cringe at that part! If they did that in the novel, I'm sure more than Mr. Knightley would have criticized her.

But anyways, very well done post! :-)

Hayden said...

I must say that this is not my favorite version of Emma. The first time I watched it I HATED it, but then I watched it again and tolerated it, and then I found myself watching it again and now I like it, but I don't love it. But I will say it does grow on a person!

Everyone seems to hate the version with Gwenyth Paltrow, but it's by far my favorite- probably because everyone acted/looked the way I pictured them while reading the book. It's main unforgivable flaw is the fact that it's too short (and the proposal scene, which should have been by the book ;)

Emma 2009 does have some good qualities (although that scene with Frank really is unforgivable...I seriously have to leave the room whenever it comes on because it annoys me so much) And for some reason...I love the beginning credits. A lot. Dunno why. ;)

Evelyn said...

As everyone else here I do so love this version. It was a relief to have 4 hours to get to know the characters instead of just 2! But I do agree with some of your points... Let's see..

Emma acting too immature. I do agree that she does act pretty silly and immature at times, but really I felt that she was just as silly in the book. She needed Mr. Knightley in the book just as much as she did in the movie. It just makes you admire him all the more for sticking with her. :P

Harriet being to stupid. Ahh, yes, she is very empty of head, but she is finally the Harriet of my imagination. She seemed so childish in the book and was well portrayed in the movie.

As for Jane again, I thought she was really well portrayed! The one in the Gweneth P. version was to cold for me. I really found it hard to believe that that one would fall in love with such a man as Frank, as in the 2009 version of Jane it seemed a lot more possible of her being swayed by outside character.

And Frank! Oh my how I could have strangled him at times! But again, this is the Frank of my imagination. I do agree he would NOT have put his head on her lap, but other than that the Box Hill scene was precisely how I imagined it! It was so much more of a jerk in the 2009 than the A&E version as you call it. =)

Mr. Knightley's scolding was more touching in the A&E version, but I like both of them just as much. =) I love that they showed Emma's emotions when she got home from that trying day. =D

And.. I thin that's really all I have thoughts on. The fact of it being to modern and the change of dialogue doesn't really bother me that much. I just love it so much! And yes, the character development of Emma is so great to see!

I really enjoyed this post, thanks for taking the time to write it!

Evelyn said...

Though.. thinking back on my comment on Jane.. I do think she could have been more elegant. I guess I was thinking more of her character than her looks. :P

Miss Dashwood said...

Oooh, I liked this post exceedingly. Even if it did almost get my feathers in a ruffle a few times. (Ridiculous. My TWEEN wrote it. And she's DEFENDING Emma, for Pete's sake, Amy.) Haha.

I adore the opening. But yeah, the capitalization is kinda weird. And, haha, I have no idea what the word is for that. Correctly capitalized? :P

I really don't understand people who complain about Romola Garai's bubbliness-- she's PERFECT for Emma. And she DOES know how to act like a lady when she's in public.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA about the soup-flinging. Looooooved that.

And I do wish the Quote had been in there. But I think we did a very good job of Inserting it when weeeeee watched it. :D

I feel like I should be displeased with Laura Pyper but I really like her as Jane Fairfax... is that heresy? I totally see how she's unlike the book, but, gulp, I like her portrayal better than either of the others. True, I've barely seen anything of whatever her name is who plays Jane in the brown-haired one, but I've seen pictures and she doesn't look right to me.

Oh, and one thing you missed... I think Emma's initiating The Kiss was awfully historically inaccurate. But 'twas still cute.


Okay, now I'm curious, what's up with the 1/4? Did you rewatch an episode during your Challenge?

Melody said...

Wow! All these delightful comments! I should post more often...

The Elf,
Thanks for commenting! Pretty much everything in 2009 is a relief after seeing the Gwyneth Paltrow version. Heh, heh, heh. ;) And I like to say that I consider Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley to be tied, but I do see why people could like the latter a bit more... ;)

Carol Joy,
Oooh! Nice long comment! I do love those. :)
Have you read the book since watching this version? I've seen some people enjoy it more after that. :)
I honestly don't think even Willoughby or Wickham would do that. They'd be too sensible of the fact that everyone else was disapproving and they like to maintain their good images. :P
The Scolding Scene wouldn't really bother me if it wasn't for the fact that I found that scene so affecting in the book, and the movie didn't capture the emotions, quite. Of its own merit, it's still a good scene. ;)

What are your other two favorite JA movies, if I may ask? It's always an interesting piece of trivia to learn from people. ;)
Aaand I'm going to have to disagree with you about it being obvious that Emma and Mr. Knightley end up together-- did you actually watch this before you knew the story? Because it's obvious for those of us who DO know where they're going, but I've had a couple friends who watched this before knowing the story and it kept them guessing almost the whole time!

Okay, well, I do see where you're coming from here because *looks around cautiously and lowers voice* there was a point where I might have said I preferred the A&E version, too. Or at least that they tied. But then I watched Emma 2009 and it really grew on me a lot. I liked it from the beginning, but I didn't completely adore it like I do now. Which is just another thing I like about this version--that's how the book, and the story in general, is. (May I ask how many times you've seen it?)
But really, I Cannot Stand Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley. Sorry. He's just... no. I can't. Haha. But it has my favorite Jane Fairfax and I like the really old-fashioned feel. It's way too short to have the whole story, though!!

Miss Jane Bennet,
Ha, ha, I know, it's so odd, me criticizing one of my favorite movies. But it kind of turned into a defense, too. ;)

Melody said...

Kiri Liz,
Emma used to rank third or fourth on my list, I think, but then after I grew to love this version the story in general, including the book, is my second favorite now. :)
And yesss, well said, about there being a liveliness that the other films don't get.
Anyways. I very much enjoyed your comment, too. :)

Miss Elizabeth,
Ha... well, I can definitely see differences between the other two Janes. For one thing, the GP/1996 one was kind of... larger. :P But anyways. I still do like this Jane, she's just not quite hte one of the book.

Well, watch it a few more times, m'dear, and maybe you'll end up as merry as the rest of us! Er, I mean, might end up loving it as much as the rest of us. Haha.
I don't *hate* the GP version... and if it wasn't supposed to be a Jane Austen movie I might like it quite a lot. ;)
The beginning credits ARE fun to watch...

Mainly when I mentioned Emma acting too immature, it was because other people tend to say that and I felt like giving my opinion on it. Haha. ;)
Yes, this Harriet is the only one at all like the book, I think, even if she's a little too air-headed. ;)
I liked this Jane better than the one in the GP version, too. The one from A&E was my favorite.
And I really don't think that the Emma scolding scene was more touching in the A&E version... I think, actually, that that's the one scene I think 1996/GP did better, as far as Mr. Knightley's part goes. (But I'm mainly comparing it to the book.) And YES, the scene when she got home was wonderful. Loved that.

Miss Dashwood,
Heehee... well, your posts can sometimes ruffle *my* feathers a little, so all's fair. ;) But yes, I was indeed defending it... like, now if anybody objects to 2009 with one of the things I talked about, I can just shove this post at them. :P
I thought you would enjoy the soup-flinging... ;) It reminded me of some joke I would make when talking to you is probably why. Heehee.
Sniffle... I can't remeeeember how exactly we inserted the quote when we watched it. I do remember planning on doing something of the sort, though. :D
Yeaaah, you can't declare an opinion on Jane Fairfax A&E unless you've actually seen it. And I'll admit, she is not perfect either. Hardly anyone is ever EXACTLY like in the book. She's just closer than Laura Pyper. And for all my complaining, I DO *enjoy* the latter's portrayal... I just don't think it's like the book.
Well, I didn't "miss" that... it annoys you more than it does me, dahling. :P AND EMMA DID NOT INITIATE THE KISS. Not really. Not the actual kiss. He was the one who decided to do THAT in the end. She just hugged his head. HAHAHAHA. Besides, I can't say it's historically inaccurate when the kiss in GENERAL is historically inaccurate. I don't think they would have done that at all. :P (But it's so cute that I can't complain. COUGH.)
Nope, I started watching it once with a friend but we didn't watch past the first episode, and I don't think I ended up finishing it by myself that time.

Kristalyn Huber said...

I absolutely love this version as well! I think I've watched it at least 10 times and still haven't gotten tired of it :)

Ramola's portrayal of Emma was magnificent in my opinion! I loved her facial expressions.

Johnny Lee Miller is my favorite Mr. Knightley of all time!

I have to say mostly all the actors/actresses in this version were my favorite. I never really did like Emma until this version came out.

Mrs. Elton! Could it get any better? "...and I will put a pink ribbon on my basket".

Can I just say, the movie wouldn't have been half as good without the music.

My 15yo brother (who doesn't like JA or EG movies )actually enjoys watching this.

Anybody else like Johdi May as "poor Ms Taylor"?

Would you rather hear the story...

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