Monday, February 8, 2010

Masterpiece Theatre: Emma

The second installment in this season of Masterpiece Classic was the American premier of the new adaptation of Austen's classic novel, Emma. There has been a lot of buzz about this version, and I had MAJOR reservations about it. All in all, it ended up being a bit of a love/hate relationship. Those of you have read my blog for awhile know that Emma is not exactly my favorite Austen novel, so I am a bit more flexible when it comes to my approval of the different versions. Here is a snapshots of my likes and my dislikes of this most recent dose of Highbury:


-The production qualities are as good as always. The costumes were pretty without breaking away from the traditional Regency look. The homes were perfectly suited to their corresponding characters. And the outdoor scenes were breathtaking, especially Box Hill.

-The length was decent, allowing more time to explore the backgrounds of the various characters. You could really see WHY people like Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax, and Frank Churchill sometimes acted the way they did. Yes, it does give them a bit of a complex, but it also allows new viewers to understand them, somewhat.

-Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton. He was as good as any other actor who as been in the role, and the only one who was actually good looking.

-Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith. She was the perfect balance of sweet likability and total airhead.

-The humor. By far the most laugh-out-loud version that I have seen with Mr. Knightley of all people giving most of the witty remarks.

-Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller were not as horrible as I had imagined they might be. There were still many aspects that I didn't like, but they both seemed to at least be having some fun with their characters.


-Not many of the characters really struck the right tones for me. Romola Garai seemed too old for Emma's childishness. Johnny Lee Miller seemed too young for Knightley's wisdom and strength. Laura Pyper lacked the tragic elegance that Olivia Williams brought to the role of Jane Fairfax. Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill came off as annoying rather than dashing. Christina Cole was somewhat bland as Mrs. Elton. And poor Mr. Woodhouse's (Michael Gambon)hypochondria came off as pitiable rather than hilarious.

-I know some people like for their films to have a modern flair, but this film had too much for me. Someone was always waving, flopping on furniture, and using modern tones and expressions. When I watch a period piece, I would actually like to see some, you know, "period" in it. Let's put some elegance back in this!

-The ending was rather lackluster. There was almost no feeling from Mr. Knightley during the proposal scene and Emma spent the last half-hour in tears over one thing or another.

-Things seemed kind of mixed up at times, especially that whole scene at Donwell Abbey before the strawberry picking. It just didn't seem to belong. And the Box Hill scene fell a little flat in my opinion.

-I can't believe they did this. I mean, this was a change that I never saw coming. You know that exchange between Emma and Mr. Knightley at the Crown Ball regarding "brothers and sisters"? Yeah, well they didn't move it, they didn't change it, they actually got rid of it. One of the few truly romantic exchanges between the two and they take it out. Instead, we're left with them simply looking at each other throughout the dance. Badly done indeed!

In the end, nothing is really added by this new version. If you like your Austen dramas with lots of laughs, pretty people, and modern expressions, then this will work for you. If you like for Austen dramas to actually resemble the story that they came from, I would stick to the Kate Beckinsale version. Not horrible, just not great either.

Up Next: An encore presentation of the 2007 production of Northanger Abbey

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