“Of all the Emmas’, in all the films, in all the miniseries,” here treads the feistiest.
Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) “Emma” published in 1815, England: George III was king; Lord Byron and Walter Scott were in full throttle; Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. Women invisible, an accessory in a patriarchal society; their fortunes, gifted to their husband’s after marriage. Stifled, stymied, conscripted to the parameters of their homes or in “Emma’s” prototype (“handsome, clever and rich”), estate. Anya Taylor-Joy, “Emma Woodhouse”, infuses this early 19th century woman with 21st century grit, refined incorrigibility; calculating schemer, matchmaker for the noblesse oblige; she rails against the suffocating, optionless, indolent days with her finest, honed weapon, an intellect, that rejects boredom and quarantine.
Director Autumn de Wilde energizes a stale scenario with an outstanding cast: Taylor-Joy, delightfully desirable as the major protagonist; Johnny Flynn, “George Knightly” diligently portrays Emma’s foil, giving as good as she gave; Bill Nighy, Emma’s father, does not have to mumble a syllable to soar. Two actors paralyzed in their characterizations: Josh O’Connor (Charles, “The Crown”), is riveting as “Mr. Elton”, an obsequious, foppish preacher: Mia Goth is meteoric as innately charmed, naïve “Harriet Smith”; she purloins every scene, and “Emma’s” glow fades with her absence.
“Emma” has weathered time’s test; Austen’s prose perpetually pleases and pulsates with romance, without the prurience of modern movie/novel intimacy; hearts and minds may be won by the poetic potency, power of language.
THREE &1/2 STARS!!!