[REVIEW] ‘Emma’ and Why Miss Woodhouse is Austen’s Most Delightfully Flawed Heroine

Everyone knows I love me some Jane Austen. For someone who wrote in the late 18th century it truly is remarkable how relevant and entertaining her work still remains to this day. Each year I try to re-read her books and I have seen every film adaptation out there from heroines killing zombies, facing cliques in high school, to Bollywood, to our traditional retellings in Georgian era garb and British accents. They almost always work for me to one degree or another.

And yet even by her fans sometimes Austen isn’t given the credit her writing deserves. They are admired but casually grouped in with romantic novels only about silly women falling in love. This is far from the case. The women of Austen are dynamic humans who are forced to make choices, and frankly the only major choice within their power at that time was who they agreed to marry. So when Lizzie refuses Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice this is not a normal dating scenario but a radical departure from customs and even a risk to her own survival and that of her family.

Austen’s novel Emma is especially interesting because it has her only heroine that is not on the outs of society. Lizzie and Jane are losing their home, Eleanor and MaryAnn in Sense and Sensibility are left in rather dire straits after their father dies, Fanny in Mansfield Park is dependent upon her cousins for survival and Anne in Persuasion has a double woe of being both an old maid and having a foolish father who has squandered their fortune.

img_20200306_0004192839320589421010210.jpg

But then we have Emma. Miss Emma Woodhouse not only faces no financial crisis but she is so comfortable and frankly bored that she deems it her responsibility to meddle in other people’s lives. As one might expect, the more she meddles the more trouble she gets into and this makes her an interesting character. She has different flaws than the other Austen heroines.With these flaws it would be easy to make Emma an unlikable character, but there are two reasons why her story works:

First, she always has the best of intentions. Whether it is meddling with Harriett or encouraging Mr Elton, she is trying to increase the joy of those around her. This makes her foibles easy to relate with despite her aristocratic lifestyle.

Secondly, the narrative never fails to call her out for her mistakes. This is usually done by Mr Knightley but occasionally by Mrs Weston and sometimes it is her own inner monologing that teaches Emma the lesson she needs to learn. By the end of the novel she has grown immensely and has a new appreciation for her entire community. This is what you want to see in a story- character growth in addition to a compelling romance.

emma2

2020 Film

Anyway, I tell you all this to try and explain why I think the new adaptation by director Autumn de Wilde of Emma works so well. She seems to instinctively understand and respect what Austen was going for in the story and character. Then she adds her own flair and touches I found completely delightful and charming. Aside from Clueless this may be the outright funniest version of the story and yet it still has the heart and vulnerability we need from the titular character.

In this version, Emma is played by actress Anya Taylor- Joy, and she feels younger and more sheltered than other versions. This makes total sense for her character. She certainly would not be someone that would have ever gone to any formal schooling or been out a lot in social situations. Most of her experience would be from her governess and/or her Father. Now her teacher and Mother-figure is leaving, so it’s no wonder she quickly finds a more naive and innocent person she can teach and train in Harriett Smith.

emma3

Harriett is played by Mia Goth and she’s definitely my favorite person to play the role with the exception of perhaps Brittany Murphy in Clueless. The two of them are truly the blind leading the blind but they both mean well and seem to have a true bond of friendship that helps them to forgive and quickly find new loves to dote upon.

emma4

Then we have the Eltons played by Josh O’Connor and Tanya Reynolds (her hair was especially memorable! Take note come Oscars). They are our comic relief/ or rich people who don’t learn and grow like Emma does. Miranda Hart is lovely as the chatter-box that is Miss Bates and Callum Turnder is the mysterious and selfish Frank Churchill. All of these characters sparkled with humor and wit.

emma5

However, the funniest of them all is Bill Nighy playing Emma’s father Mr Woodhouse. He is a hypochondriac who has the doctor on continual notice (even when a baby is crying he wants to call the doctor!) and is constantly worried about the drafts in the house (which leads to a hilarious bit I won’t spoil). Even his reaction to the weather made me laugh. I would nominate him for best supporting actor if it was up to me. So funny.

emma

Finally, let’s talk about Mr Knightley and Emma in this version. This is a younger version of Knightley than we get in the novel, which I was a bit anxious about but it worked. Because he has clearly been working and out in the world more than Emma, his lectures and scolding still feels valid and earned.

I loved the way de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton give time where Emma and Knightley are fighting so hard they are shouting at each other. It was very refreshing for this kind of period piece. Also actor Johnny Flynn has the smoulder and suffering for his girl we like to see in spades! However, it is not all grand gestures as we see sweet and swoonworthy moments where he is crying in desperation for Emma. It helps that Taylor-Joy and Flynn have sizzling chemistry together especially in the dancing scenes where they are allowed to touch and linger on the feel of each other’s hands. So good!

While watching Emma I definitely felt some inspiration from 2018’s The Favorite and 2016’s Love and Friendship. They are both films with a period sensibility but a sharp sardonic sense of humor, and I’m all for that. It’s what Austen would have wanted and enjoyed in this day and age. It’s what she was going for with her bold heroines who defied convention in the one way they could: LOVE! It’s the best. l love Austen and I really loved this version of Emma! Go see it!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

smile worthy

Advertisements

Liebster Award

liebster awardI was recently tagged in the Liebster Award by my friend over at Jason’s Movie Blog. This is kind of like a movie tag where a blogger friend will have 11 questions and you create your own questions.  I just recently tagged pretty much everyone I know in the Walt Disney Tag but I will at least answer his questions.

THE RULES


Here are the ground rules for the Liebster Awards….

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you
 Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you
 Nominate 11 bloggers that you think are deserving of the award
 Let the bloggers know you nominated them
 Give them 11 questions of your own
 And post it on your blog!

Question #1

Favorite Movie of All Time?

Pixar’s Up. It’s a movie I could watch every day of my life and never tire of. I love how the relationship between Ellie and Karl continues throughout the whole movie. It reminds me that love continues on as long as we remember them. It’s a beautiful study of regret and grief and how to forgive yourself for the things that don’t work out in life. In my views a perfect film.

up14Question #2

Favorite Movie Scene?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s the cab scene. To me the best writing in a movie I’ve ever seen:

“You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself”

It’s a film that takes two characters who are walking contradictions. They are both lonely and extremely manic at the same time. They are both needy and aloof. This is what makes them interesting. The film is a reminder that even the screwiest of us can find salvation through love. This final scene is perfection. “No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself”. Plus, the music, perfection.

Question #3

Last Movie you saw in theaters?

Angry Birds. It wasn’t very good. Can read my review here.

angrybirdsmovieQuestion #4

If you had the chance to meet one actor or actress in real life….who would it be?

Might seem like an odd choice but I would pick Patricia Heaton because I admire how she has kept her Christian beliefs and stayed a working actress. That’s tough to do.

patricia heatonQuestion #5

What was your favorite movie of 2015?

Inside Out and I like it more each time I see it. It has become my go-to movie and I find myself watching it every couple of weeks.

inside out5Question #6

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I’ve actually only seen 2 Star Trek things in my life. However, I am starting a new set of podcasts next Wednesday with my friend Tom Gunn looking at all the Star Trek films.  Would love for you to join us https://plus.google.com/events/cgdut3p6ukimh52kk5s4n87ktfg?authkey=CJOWwqrA8sTpXA

That said Star Wars is awesome. I love the space opera and adventure and all the characters. I guess the prequels are kind of lame but still doesn’t tarnish the brand in my eyes.

star warsQuestion #7

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging 8 years ago over on my other blog http://smilingldsgirl.com

8 yearsQuestion #8

Why do you blog?

I don’t know. My life would be a lot lonelier if I didn’t blog and it feels cool to find other weirdos that like the same stuff I like. Also I enjoy writing and crafting persuasive essays that get my opinion across. I’ve seen the quality of my writing improve over the years which is cool.

Question #9

If you could visit any movie world in real life, what would it be?

I think I would go to the world of Jane Austen because any magical place has evil and is actually quite fraught with peril. In Jane Austen’s books/movies everyone is polite and says nice things even if they don’t mean it. Worst thing that could really happen to you is you don’t get married and someone says something mean about your mother. Otherwise a lot of tea and talk. I could live with that. pride and prejduce3ps. Anyone else super excited about Love and Friendship coming out?

Question #10

What do you collect? Physical copy of movies or digital downloads?

Physical Copy although I have over 500 digital movies in my vudu.com collection. Still I love special features and the HD quality of bluray. Here’s a video where I go over my Disney blurays.

Question #11

What movie are you looking forward to seeing?

Highest up on my list is probably Moana, Rogue 1, Dr Strange and Kubo and the 2 Strings.

moana4As far as my tags I really just feel like I tagged everyone this weekend so I will leave these great questions open to any of you that wants to answer them.  Thanks for tagging me Jason. It was a lot of fun!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Review

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Jane Austen fan.  I reread all 6 of her novels every year and they never grow old to me.  She has such witty dialogue, complex characters and builds tension better than any author I know.  So, it was with some hesitation I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was being made into a movie.  I had heard of the parody book but never read it because it seemed to be making fun of my beloved Austen.  I worried the movie would do the same.   In fact, I wasn’t going to see the movie but I decided a true Austen fan should give her review and so I took the bullet and went and saw it.

And to my surprise I had a pretty good time.  I still wish Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn’t have the zombies and was just a straight adaptation but for what it was I found it entertaining.   In truth, it doesn’t mock Pride and Prejudice or Jane Austen but just has a new spin on the story.

zombies2

The idea behind this version is that zombies came with the plague and the Bennett girls are not only looking for husbands but fierce warriors trained in China.  It is all very silly but done with enough panache to be fun.  Mr Darcy, Lady Catherine, Mr Bingley are all zombie warriors too.  Mr Wickham has shady background and is working with the zombies and Mr Collins is still just plain old Mr Collins.

zombies7The cast is a lot of fun in this version.  Lily James is wonderful as Lizzy.  Again I wish she could have just been a regular Lizzy.  I also LOVED Matt Smith as Mr Collins.  He may be my favorite Mr Collins yet on screen.  I thought Sam Riley was fine as Mr Darcy but nothing spectacular.  He was better at the zombie killing than the Darcyisms.

Matt Smith in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

My favorite scene is probably the proposal which has a fighting component that totally worked.  Also the take on Lady Catherine played by Lena Headey was so much fun.

zombies3

There are some problems with the direction of the film. A lot of the action is jerky and darkly shot and the zombies are rather inconsistent. Sometimes they can hold in their zombieness and other times they can’t. There are also one too many martial arts style fight sequences than they probably needed, but they all are done in a spirit of fun. I laughed a lot.

Overall, I went into this expecting to hate it but I had a good time.  It’s silly but also creative and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  I think if you give it a shot you will enjoy it.

As far as content much of the violence is off screen with just the sound effects.  What you do see is dark or in shadows.  I’m pretty squeamish and I was ok with it.

Overall Grade- B

Snow Day Movies

Best Snow Day MoviesSo I’ve heard of this little thing called Snowmogeddon that many of you are experiencing.  It is gorgeous here in Utah so go figure! As many of you are stuck inside with travel restrictions I thought I would help you out and suggest some great movies for watching on a snow day.  I figure you either want something you can cozy up with, something long or something cold.

For some reason I always think of making popcorn, hot cocoa and brownies when there is a blizzard outside.  Yum!

I am also specifically not picking any Christmas movies  because most people don’t watch those in January.

Here we go!

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy-

lord of the ringsWhat better for a day stuck inside than a good trilogy and it’s hard to top Lord of the Rings.  You could even watch the extended editions with all that time.  What Peter Jackson did truly fits the word epic. They hit every movie lover need- great action, beautiful worlds, good performances and a battle against evil that has real heart at the core. When you get to the final scene with Samwise, Frodo, Gollum and the ring it is so satisfying.

2. Up

up_posterPerfect time to watch a movie about a floating house when you are stuck in the house!  I can’t think of a time when I wouldn’t want to watch Up.  It’s sweet, funny and touching.  I love the opening sequence more than any other piece of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  I love that a character passes away yet her presence is felt throughout the film.  It’s a reminder to us that those we love and have lost are still a part of our lives. It’s also very funny and has some nifty action, a good villain, great voice performances and a perfect score.

3. Shining

shiningGot a little cabin fever?  I can’t think of a more appropriate and terrifying movie than Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  It is the only horror movie I like because it is about a man going insane not some outside force attacking.  The artistry is a huge step above the typical horror movie and there is a lot of symbolism that can keep you thinking.  Plus, great performances from all involved.

4. 101 Dalmatians

101 dalmations

My tails froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze and my toes are froze

Of course I have to include a Disney and I almost went with Lady and the Tramp because that is a very cozy movie but I decided on 101 Dalmatians because it is warm, funny and has a lot of scenes in the snow. Cruella is one of Disney’s best villains and the dogs get really close to getting caught many times.  The scene getting into the van makes me always hold my breath.  Cruella’s plan is so outrageous it also gives us some great laughs.  One of my favorites and a rare time where the sketch style is actually a benefit to all those spotted puppies.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

ferrisWhat is a snow day but an unexpected day off, so this is a perfect film for the occasion.  Ferris’ antics are obviously over the top but there is a real heart to the film which I actually find quite moving.  There is a theory that the whole day is planned by Ferris because Cameron is going to commit suicide and it is all set up to get him to the moment with the car and confronting his father.  I don’t know if that is true or not but it makes sense.  It’s one of those rare pictures which balances comedy, great writing, likable performances, 4th wall jokes and pretty intense drama. I like it more each time I see it.

6.  Frozen

Frozen-movie-posterHow could I not put it in?  Let the cold never bother you anyway and watch one of Disney’s most satisfying movies and one of the best musicals in a long time.  I love the relationship between the sisters as I have 3 sisters and trying to figure out what’s in their heads is really hard.  I thought the ending worked and the villain twist surprised me, which is hard to do in a fairytale.  They also used just enough of Olaf to be funny without overdoing it.  I know it has its detractors but I love it!

7. Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice

Technically this is not a movie but a miniseries but I figure you have 6 hours when snowed in why not watch Colin Firth stare longingly into Lizzie’s eyes…Sigh?  This is the standard by which all Jane Austen adaptations are measured.  Andrew Davies is such a great director for period pieces and the whole cast is engaging with the exception of Susannah Harker who is a rather blank Jane.  I love Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and of course Colin Firth with the staring, eloquence, and a little dip in the lake we won’t soon forget.  Other great miniseries to watch are North and South (my favorite book), Wives and Daughters, Little Dorrit, Downton Abbey, Persuasion/Emma/Sense and Sensibility.  They are all great!

8. Groundhog Day-

groundhog day

It’s only a few days away from Groundhog Day so why not watch a hilarious comedy about the holiday? Bill Murray is at his best as a cranky weatherman named Phil who is forced to cover the groundhog day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Then he lives that aggravating day over and over again.  It is funny but there is also a nice heart to the story where he learns to see people in a new way including Andie MacDowell as the love interest.  He starts looking at her very cynically but as the days continue he understands her and starts to think a little less selfishly.  Terrific writing and directing by the great Harold Ramis.

9. Fargo-

Fargo_movieposter

I admit the ending I have to look away.  It’s pretty bloody but aside from that a perfect mystery set in cold Fargo, North Dakota. William H Macy is great as the man who’s plan begins to unravel.  Steve Buscemi is so creepy as one of the kidnappers. But the real star is Frances McDormand as the pregnant sheriff Marge who is one of the most likable characters in recent memory.  She is smarter than everyone else in the room but everyone discounts her because of her sex, way of speaking and being pregnant.  It makes you root for her and smile at the same time. Great direction by the Coen Brothers making the cold landscape of Fargo practically a character in the story.

10. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers

seven bridesA classic musical directed by Stanley Donnen and starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel as a couple who marry on first sight which gives Keel’s backwoods brothers a bad idea for getting their own brides.  It is silly and over-the-top premise but it works almost in spite of itself.  The engaging cast of mostly dancers helps keep it likable and light.  It also has some of the best dancing in any Hollywood movie of its era. The barn raising scene alone is amazing.  And it is a perfect musical to watch in a blizzard because the girls get snowed in by an avalanche!

———————————————————-

There are a lot of other movies I could have picked.  What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments and stay warm!