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