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"Emma"- a Review, and Which Version I Like Best

I have a confession to make....
I, who absolutely loves the 2009 version of Emma, have found that I also have a soft spot for the Gwyneth Paltrow version!
There! It's out, and I feel much better! ;)
To assuage my own feelings of traitorous-ness, I will do a review of this movie, and compare it to the 2009 Emma, telling you my feelings on each. Will that do? I hope so! :)
I will begin with Emma herself.

I loved Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma. She brought a graceful and genteel side of Emma out, while still retaining Emma's all-knowing, superior airs. She was nosy, prying, and meddlesome without leaving the sweet, proper, lady-like attitude befitting a young woman of her position. Gwyneth Paltrow played the part very well, combining elegance with vivacity, grace with pressing goodwill.
I have seen all three version of Emma (Kate Beckinsale, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Romola Garai)
and I do feel that Gwyneth Paltrow's portrayal is the most accurate to what Jane Austen probably considered her heroine to be like.
However, I do have an extremely soft spot for Romola Garai's character in the 2009 Masterpiece Theater version.

Some people have complained, very correctly, that her portrayal is modern. She makes faces carries herself in ways no lady would ever have attempted in the Regency Era. She openly flirts with Mr. Frank Churchill at Box Hill. All this aside though, I love this Emma. She possesses, to quote Mr. Knightley himself, "An open temperament". She is brutally honest, vivacious, just as quick to mend her scrapes as to get into them. She brings Emma's character alive to modern viewers in a different way then the previous movies have been able to. If you are anything like me, the lovable, yet flawed characters only endear themselves more to me. So I do like Romola Garai as Emma.

Then we move on to Mr. Knightley. Ahhh....what Mr. Knightley can be bad?

I found that I loved Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley, though I wasn't expecting to before watching it! He was the perfect age, the perfect look, a fabulous dancer, a gentleman entirely, and handled Emma with a splendid combination of good humor, polite teasing, gentlemanly conduct, and brotherly love. I don't think he could be much improved upon, and the proposal scene? AHH! It was *so* sweet! :) You should watch this movie if only for that.

The 2009 Mr. Knightley, played by Johnny Lee Miller has my special regard because he reminds me so much of my own brother, The Gentleman From Virginia. :) Many people have disagreed, but he's my brother and I do see sides of him which others don't! :) Mr. Knightley's relationship and Emma's (prior to their falling in love) reminds me much of My Gentleman's and mine :) There is a delightful ease to their interactions, (which are always amusing) and he knows exactly how to handle Emma. :)
My Gentleman will look sadly at me for saying so, but I do think that the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northham pair rank equal (or a bit better :) with the Romola Garai/ J.L. Miller pair. Sorry! :) They looked like they belonged together, and Mr. Knightley in the this version had a great composition of passion with gentleness.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam

Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller

But there the comparisons stop. Masterpiece Theater (2009) Emma cast everyone else far better than either version as far as looks go. I'll do a quick skim over all the secondary characters:
Harriet Smith: the G.P. (Gwyneth Paltrow) version is just plain odd! Her mannerisms look super affected and weird, but her personality is way better than the 2009 version.
Mr. Woodhouse: in the G.P. version you do not ever connect with Mr. Woodhouse. 2009 handled his part far better
Miss Taylor: I loved her in the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma. She had a sweet, sisterly relationship.
Miss Bates: Sophie Thompson plays a hilarious Miss Bates, but over does it at times. But then again, isn't that Miss Bates to a T? A bit much? :)
Frank Churchill: I would have had no idea why Emma would think he loved her in this G.P. version. 2009 did *way* better
Jane Fairfax: *Very* reserved. 2009 brought out her character far more and you grew to love and sympathize with her.
Mr. Elton: The very best Mr. Elton is found in the Kate Beckinsale version. I abhor him in both the G.P. and the 2009 Emmas
Mrs. Elton: Too irritating and bold and brassy in this version. 2009 does a lot more with her, and makes her character that much more believable.

So there you have it! I'm not even sure myself which of these two Emmas are my favorite! There is something to be said for each. But I have to say, I enjoyed this Gwyneth Paltrow version far more than I ever hoped to!

Plot: **** (No one could give an Austen plot less than 4 stars, but I didn't give it five because I felt the plot moved slowly at first, then the skipped tons of stuff in the middle, even muddling Box Hill and strawberry picking together with no explanation for either)
Quality: **** (The filming is good, but not as crisp and clear and picturesque as 2009)
Characters: ***** (Five stars for Emma and Mr. Knightley!)
Quotability: ***** (Lots of quotable things in there! :)
Costumes: **** (The costumes are far less pretty and creative than 2009, excepting Emma Woodhouse's own clothes and her hair which was done a different way every scene, almost!)
Over All Rating: **** (Four Stars--as I said before, the two main characters were amazing, but everyone else lacked vim and vigor and enough time to play their parts well)

Favorite Mr. Knightley Quotes: "Try not to kill my dogs." and "I rode through the rain. And I'd ride through much more..."
Favorite Emma Quotes: "After all, we know nothing about her family. Her parents might be pirates!" and "If Mr. Knightley comes back sad than that might mean John has advised him not to marry Harriet. Oh I LOVE John! Oh... but if he comes back sad it may be because he dreads telling me he is to marry my friend. How could John do it? Oh I HATE John!" :D

There you go! I'm hiding until you outraged people will be done throwing things at me! ~Rachel


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