Screenwriter Eleanor Catton has produced a streamlined version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma. While significant chunks are missing, the final product is a delightful, easy-to-follow film with most of the dialogue left intact.
Anya Taylor-Joy delivers an excellent performance as Emma Woodhouse, a 21-year-old busybody who enjoys meddling in other people’s lives. After successfully arranging the marriage of her governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), to widower Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves), Emma decides to pair her friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) with the local vicar (Josh O’Connor).
A series of comical (and not-so-comical) misadventures follow, and Harriet ends up with a bruised heart.
Disappointed by the turn of events, long-time friend George Knightly (Johnny Flynn) chastises Emma, commenting: “Vanity on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief.”
Undaunted, Emma turns her attention toward new arrivals Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) and Frank Churchill (Callum Turner). Often thoughtless, sometimes even cruel, Emma continues to poke her nose in other people’s affairs. One particular barb sets in motion Emma’s unraveling. Ashamed and embarrassed, she tries to atone for her behavior. And, in the process, she falls in love.
Bill Nighy steals every scene in which he appears as Emma’s father.
Definitely light fare and a welcome distraction during these challenging times.