Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counting down my top 10 Austen adaptations

Emma - Paltrow

Partly to celebrate the BBC's latest interpretation of Austen for the screen, Emma 2009; and partly just because I felt like it, I'm going to be counting down my top 10 all-time favourite Austen movie adaptations over the next few days. Feel free to join in the fun by writing a post or series of posts on your blog featuring your ten favourites, or just leave a comment and let me know what your top 10 are.

Emma - Paltrow


No. 10: Emma 1996 (Miramax, starring Gwyneth Paltrow)

Emma - Paltrow

Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Harriet Smith (Toni Collette)

Of all the Austen adaptations I can think of, this is arguably the most Hollywoodized, and the most "chick-flicky" - which does bother some Janeites - myself included, to some extent. (More on this in a future post.) 

Emma - Paltrow

Mr. Elton (Alan Cumming), Mrs. Elton (Juliet Stevenson), Jane Fairfax (Polly Walker), and Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor)

Its strengths are the witty screenplay by director Douglas McGrath, and the chemistry between the two leads, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam - and composer Rachel Portman's delightful score. The supporting cast is mostly good, with Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates, Greta Scacchi as Mrs Weston, and Juliet Stevenson as Mrs Elton in all putting in memorable performances. (I particularly loved Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates! :-) )It is also a beautiful film visually, though it might be a little too pretty and flowery for some tastes.

Emma - Paltrow

Its faults - it tries too hard to be a romantic comedy, losing much of the profundity of Austen's book in the process; Jeremy Northam is too suave and good-looking to be Mr. Knightley (though some people I know would argue that this isn't strictly a fault, merely a slight discrepency with the book ;-) ); Toni Collette as Harriet Smith; and last but not least, Ewan McGregor's wig. I also find Gwyneth Paltrow slightly irritating in some scenes, but that might just be me. 

Emma - Paltrow

Emma + Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley

It won't appeal to all Austen fans - I guess it just depends on what you're looking for. It's really quite a delightful film in itself, if you can manage not to compare it with the book too often whilst watching. If you're after a clean, feel-good, romantic comedy with a sparkling script, Emma should fit the bill quite nicely - indeed, it's head-and-shoulders above your average rom-com.

Emma - Paltrow

Frank Churchill with Mrs Weston (Greta Scacchi)

Emma - Paltrow

Emma - Paltrow

6 comments: said...

very fun blog!!

Tracie said...

This movie is better the longer it has been since you have read the book...then you are happy just to get a little Austen in even if it isn't perfect!

The Editrix said...

Outdoor Mom - thanks! :-D

Tracie - yes, you're probably right. LOL, to quote Harriet, "very true"! :-)

Marian said...

I might do a list of my top 10 faves movie; for me, Northam will always be Mr Knightley. :)

Charity said...

This has always been one of my favorite films, in spite of its flaws (most of the cast is too old -- Jane Fairfax looks at least 35, and poor Mrs. Elton has wrinkles) but that is entirely owing to its primary cast members. I love, love, LOVE Jeremy Northam. And he has such tremendous chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow. The proposal, and the dancing sequence, are perhaps two of my favorite moments in screen, ever.

Ginger said...

This is also one of my favorite Austen adaptations. Jeremy Northam is marvelous as Mr. Knightley. He's warm, compassionate and has a sly sense of humor. His dance with Harriet is one of the most heartwarming movie scenes ever. And Gwyneth Paltrow nicely portrays Emma's blend of charm and obnoxiousness. The movie's biggest flaw, to me, is the way it skims over the important Frank Churchill-Jane Fairfax subplot.