“Emma.,” the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 2015 work “Emma,” was released on Feb. 21 to American audiences and has quickly become one of my favorite movies. Ever.
Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), a headstrong British girl in the 1800s, is determined to find a match for her best friend, Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). However, Emma ends up in over her head and in the process finds a match for herself.
I loved this movie. While there were a few things that could have been better, the costuming and overall feel of the movie sold it for me.
From the idyllic picnic on Box Hill to the dark, dimly lit dinners, the set pulled you in and made the scenes come to life. The costuming outdid my high standards for period pieces, with the impractically pretty hats and the masterpieces of fabric called Emma’s dresses. Every outfit Emma wore was perfection in fabric form, and I say that without exaggeration.
However, I mixed up Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) and George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), Emma’s love interests, a few times. After all, there’s only so much you can do with an overcoat and boots.
I also enjoyed the fact I didn’t need to have read “Emma” to have understood the movie. The dialogue seemed lifted from the book at times, but I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who was in love with whom, if Emma would lose to Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson), her competition for greatness, and what exactly Frank was up to.
These questions fed into one of my favorite scenes in the 124-minute movie – Emma and Jane Fairfax attempting to show off to Frank at a dinner party. Emma plays the piano beautifully and expects Jane to be wowed into submission. Instead, Jane goes to the piano and plays like a virtuoso, without any sheet music. This scene was light on dialogue, but the silent backfiring of Emma’s plan to impress her party guests and Frank was delightful.
Such scenes were abundant throughout the movie. The brilliance of the plot came through in slower scenes and ones not reliant on a lot of dialogue. The movie was almost luxuriantly slow, letting the gorgeous backdrops and dresses have their moment in the spotlight.
However, these slow scenes meant that the jumps between them were abrupt. Sometimes the stark transitions worked well, but there were a few times it felt jarring. The movie was divided into seasons, as well, and the change sometimes felt too sudden. This was more toward the beginning, though, and once I got used to it, I started noticing it a little less.
The pace helped the costumes and scenery stand out, but those looking for an action-filled movie probably would get a little frustrated. The drama in this movie is the social kind, with proposals and haberdasheries and ballroom dancing.
Overall, this is one of the best films and period dramas I’ve ever seen. However, if 1800s English literature isn’t your cup of tea, this might not be your movie.
—By Samhita Kumar