I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much all Austened-up and Austened-out for now. I think this will be the last Austen-themed post for a while.
I've been a bit hesitant to write this post, partly because my opinions of new Austen adaptations inevitably change over time. . . I suppose all I can do is write down what I think of Emma '09 now, even though (like I said) my opinion is bound to change. Ideally, I would have liked to have watched it a second time before writing my verdict, but I don't really have four hours to spare right now. . .
The cast: I thought about 70% of the actors in this series were well-cast. 10% were hopelessly miscast, and the remaining 20% were not exactly miscast, but. . . but - they didn't seem perfect for their roles, either. I'm thinking of the two leads in particular - Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. In spite of my early misgivings , JLM was really pretty good as Mr. Knightley, but I think most of you will agree he didn't look like Mr. Knightley. . . even though his acting was good, he just wasn't the Knightley that I imagine when I read the book.
Romola Garai is a good actress, and she did well as Emma, but her gestures and mannerisms really bothered me! She went over-the-top with her facial expressions, and her posture was so bad - she had this annoying habit of hunching her shoulders forward, giving her an awkward, ungainly appearance. I know they were aiming for a "modern" feel with this production, but I would have been very grateful if they could had the cast's deportment a little more accurate for the period. . . maybe it sounds like I'm nitpicking here, but it was just something that annoyed me throughout the series.
The rest of the cast were mostly good - though I wasn't entirely convinced by Laura Pyper's Jane Fairfax. She was very sweet, but she seemed too small and mousy - more like a Harriet Smith than a Jane Fairfax. Rupert Evans was okay as Frank Churchill. . . better than Ewan McGregor, anyway.
I really loved Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley in this adaptation. This is the only version in which we get to see much of them. The other real stand-out was Christina Cole as Mrs. Elton - she played this part almost to perfection, snobby and obnoxious and unwittingly hilarious. Blake Ritson was excellent as Mr. Elton. Michael Gambon was good as Mr. Woodhouse, but this certainly wasn't his most memorable role in a BBC costume drama (think Wives and Daughters or Cranford).
I admit I was quite disappointed by Sandy Welch's screenplay. After her brilliant scripts for Our Mutual Friend and North and South (and an okay one for Jane Eyre) I was expecting something really special. . . I mean, a screenplay for a Jane Austen movie written by someone other than Andrew Davies? Of course I was looking forward to seeing what the translation from novel to screen would be like. Like I said, I was disappointed. Only a relatively small amount of Austen's dialogue was retained, and I was also disappointed by the proposal scene and the "badly done, Emma" scene. They didn't seem nearly as powerful or as poignant as they were in the two 1996 adaptations.
It's a big-budget BBC costume drama, so of course the production values were high. Costumes, music, filming locations. . . all were gorgeous, but. . . it just seemed a bit too sanitized, too flawless. Would Mrs. Goddard's school really have been as vast or as beautiful as it is in this production? I don't know, I just found all of the perfect gardens and perfect country homes to be a bit stifling after a while. . . I was crying out for some dirt, some disorder, some brooding skies. I guess it's the Bronte side of me coming out, LOL. . .
But in spite of all of my quibbles, I really did enjoy it. It may not be the definitive Emma we were hoping for, but it is still definitely worth watching, particularly since it includes quite a few scenes from the book that weren't in the 1996 adaptations. My prediction was correct - sort of. Like Sense and Sensibility 2008, it's not brilliant, but it's good. I'll probably end up buying the DVD in spite of myself.