I adore Emma. It’s one of my favorite books ever. As someone who’s seen and loved most of the previous adaptations, my favorite remains the BBC 2009 series with Jonny Lee Milller and Romola Garai.
Originally a story with bittersweet tones such as the loss of a parent, socioeconomic differences and the complexity of human relationships, Emma is not an easy book to adapt. There are many layers to it, which are multifaceted yet subtle compared to the dramatic moments in Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or the other well known and loved stories of Jane Austen.
The story, at its heart, is about love and how we seek it, for ourselves and others. Although it seems like the pursuit of romantic love takes the center stage, the lessons that our heroine learns about life are far more substantial. Emma, as a book, questions the concepts of family, friendships, and social status while compassionately handling the issues of privilege, vanity and prejudice.
While a deeply touching story, Emma is definitely a comedy, always ready to amuse while gently confronting its characters and helping them as well as the reader to see the bright side of life.
I can say that with one look at the trailer, I knew this Emma would be very diferent in terms of style and storytelling. I was looking forward to it nonetheless, eager too see the new reincarnations of Knightley and Emma and how their relationship would play out.
So lets see what happens together, and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, maybe avoid this recap because obviously it contains spoilers.
The movie opens with Emma as a spoiled brat, kind in her words but snobbish and icy in her general manners.
She seems like she’s about to snap. Why? Maybe because it’s the wedding day of her dear friend and governess Anne.
She brings Anne flowers and expresses how she means so much more to her than her position.
Her father, of course is a genteel ball o anxiety, having lost Emma’s mother at an early age, when Emma was just a baby.
Emma, in the meantime, seems like she can barely tolerate people around her.
I mean, her face kinda shows this look of pure distaste, or is it just me?
She seems quite proud of her accomplishment, boasting about how she was the one to match Anne with Mr.Weston.
Her father doesn’t approve of people getting married and leaving home/him.
At the wedding, a delightfully expressive and tiresome Ms. Bates annoys Emma.
Later they host a dinner party with Emma gazing into the abyss like Kate Winslet in Titanic before she tried to jump off the ship.
No further comment, officer.
Then we are introduced to Mr. Knightley, who shows us his butt (neatly put in my outtakes folder) and then has his servant dress him.
I named the guy Charles because he totally deserves a name for what he puts up with.
Knightley seems impressed with himself.
It takes a while to watch him walk through his own house.
He visits Emma and her father, while Emma immediately runs to pretend to play the piano.
They get on pretty well.
We’re introduced to the weird sass-fest/banter of Emma and Knightley.
Mr. Knightley asks about Frank Churchill, Mr. Churchill’s mysterious son, who was supposed to come to his father’s wedding after many years of absence.
Emma of course, defends Frank and insists on her belief that he’s a decent man, even though she has never met him.
Another day in the life of Emma begins:
She meets a new friend named Harriet Smith, which kind of equals to adopting a puppy for her.
But once again, Harriet gets on her nerves.
No, honestly, that is how Emma reacts to Harriet’s eating.
They go on a stroll around the town and run into quite a few people.
First Miss Bates.
Then Robert Martin, a farmer who is the tenant of Mr. Knightley and a very dear friend of Harriet.
Emma is bothered.
Harriet: Miss Woodhouse, what do you think of him?
Emma: I had no right to expect much. And indeed, I did not expect much, but I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer gentility.
Then we meet this dude, Mr. Elton, who’s a total nightmare (I call him the grin-ch)
Emma thinks he’s for some reason the best mate possible for her friend Harriet, who adores and looks up to her endlessly.
Emma and Harriet have an art session which ends with Elton praising Emma’s depiction of Harriet.
Harriet gives Emma the news of a very passionate love letter and proposal from Mr. Not-so-genteel Robert Martin.
Weirdly enough, she does end up influincing Harriet, who rejects Robert Martin.
Later, Emma gives an earful to Mr. Knightley, telling him Robert is not even close to being a choice for Harriet.
They go at it, Emma says Harriet can do better while Knightley argues that her status would prevent her from a better and safer match.
Emma : Till men do fall in love with well-informed minds instead of handsome faces, a girl with such loveliness as Harriet has a certainty of being admired and sought after wherever she goes. I am very much mistaken if your sex, in general, would not find these qualities the highest claims a woman could possess.
Mr. Knightley: Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have is almost enough to make me think so, too. Better to be without sense altogether than to misapply it as you do.
5 minutes later
They banter as they beam at their nephew.
Another day, another party Frank Churchill doesn’t attend.
Lol, this is exactly how that conversation went. Trust me.
During the party, Emma realizes Mr. Elton could not care less about Harriet’s absence and pays extra attention to her, even joining her in her carriage.
Je just dives right in.
She’s very quick to dismiss him but he continues with great dramatics.
Mr. Elton: I am ready to die if you refuse me.
Emma: Then perish.
After their terrible confrontation Emma gives Harriet the news.
Her sister and John Knightley pay a visit.
For some reason John and Isabella seem like an unhappy couple, instead of the adoring husband and wife they’re supposed to be.
Oh, good news. Jane is here (!)
That’ll tell you all you need to know.
Later the girls show off their talent.
Emma is competitive after all.
During another stroll around the town, Emma and Harriet run into the Martins, who really seem to want to marry Harriet as a household.
And guess who returns to town.
I remain uncharmed.
This Frank guy suddenly starts making fun of Jane, commenting on her silly look and gossiping with Emma.
Then another shock comes in the shape of the Eltons.
The bastard has married to an even worse person than himself and they are just painfully tolerated by everyone around them.
He humilates Harriet at the long-awaited ball as the spineless cretin he is.
Knightley comes to the rescue and invites Harriet to dance.
Emma and Knightley share a nice moment where they appear to be affected by each other.
Emma: Thank you, for your kindness to Harriet.
Mr. Knightley: He was unpardonably rude. And he aimed at wounding more than Harriet.
Emma: I was completely mistaken in Mr. Elton. There is a littleness about him which you discovered and I did not.
Mr. Knightley: You would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for himself. Harriet Smith has some first-rate qualities, which Mrs. Elton is totally without. She does you credit, Emma, as you do her.
As they dance, the moment becomes more than friendly, their gazes deepening and sparks flying between them.
Knightley is shake by the incident, he runs to Emma after the ball.
When he arrives at her home, completely disheveled, Frank appears with Harriet in his arms.
Knightley panics, Mr. Woodhouse panics, everybody panics, while Emma thinks Harriet has a crush on Frank now, who just saved her.
A few more misunderstandings later, Knightley has another crisis, thinking Frank has gained Emma‘s affection.
So he broods.
Yes, clear to see Knightley‘s on fire.
In the meantime, Frank is the absolute worst, flirting with Emma in front of everyone and openly mocking their company.
Emma suddenly lets it slip, her contempt and frustration spilling from her lips.
Needless to say, Miss Bates is heartbroken.
Mr. Knightley sees the opportunity to finally express his thoughts about Emma’s actions.
Emma: You must allow that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately blended in her!
Mr. Knightley: They are blended in her, I acknowledge. And were she a woman of fortune, I would not quarrel with you for any liberties of manner, but she is poor! She has sunk from the comfort she was born to, and if she lived to an old age, she will probably sink more…To have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, and humble her, and before her niece, and before others, many of whom are entirely guided by your treatment of her! It was badly done, indeed!
Emma, overwhelmed and truly upset over her own actions, as well as the disapproval of Knightley, cries for a while.
She later pays a visit to Miss Bates and gives her a basket of food.
Miss Bates: So very kind. But you are always kind, Miss Woodhouse.
Cue more sobbing.
When she returns she sees Mr. Knightley, who has trouble meeting her eyes, eplaining that he will be away indefinitely.
Then, Westons give Emma the news. Frank’s aunt has passed away, which means he’s now free to marry guess who:
He’s been secretly engaged to Jane. *Mr. Knightley voice*: What a scoundrel, that manipulative little sh*t.
Emma is shaken once again. She’s misjudged everything and everyone.
She’s quick to console Harriet, who has no idea what’s going on.
With that, Emma finally realizes how she messed up everything my meddling.
Now Harriet loves Mr Knightley, who might possible return her feelings.
Just when she’s submerging in her sorrows, a Knightley appears.
He’s obviously there to console Emma about Frank. (lol) Emma says she never cared for Frank.
Mr. Knightley: He is a disgrace to the name of man. And is he to be rewarded with that sweet young woman. Jane, Jane, you’ll be a miserable creature. Everything turns out for his good. His aunt is in the way, his aunt dies. He uses everybody ill, and they’re delighted to forgive him. He is a fortunate man, indeed.
Emma: You speak as if you envied him.
Mr. Knightley: And I do envy him.
Through all that elegant dialogue, their misunderstanding persistently continues for a while longer.
Then Knightley kinda loses it.
Mr. Knightley: Emma, have I no chance of ever succeeding? My dearest Emma, for dearest you will always be. My dearest, most beloved Emma, tell me at once. I cannot make speeches. If I loved you less, then I might be able to talk about it more, but you know what I am. I have lectured you, and I’ve blamed you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England could have borne it. God knows I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. You understand my feelings. Will you marry me?
He explains who he really loves, while Emma is practically having a brain aneurysm.
Then she gets mad at him for giving Harriet hope, which is hilarious to be honest.
Emma then visits the farmer Robert Martin she previously regarded with contempt, persuading him to propose to Harriet again.
Everything goes back to normal.
Harriet and Robert get their happy ending.
While Emma and Mr. Knightley share secret looks.
No, truly, Mr. Woodhouse decides to give them some privacy by pulling his “I feel a chill draft” move.
Emma: How could I ever leave him?
Mr. Knightley: He can remove with you to Donwell.
Emma: You know he never would. He could not stand it.
Mr. Knightley: Then I shall come here.
Emma: You would quit the abbey?
Mr. Knightley: Yes.
Emma: Sacrifice your independence?
Mr. Knightley: Yes.
Emma: And live constantly with my father in no house of your own?
Mr. Knightley: Yes.
The wedding day is raided by The Handmaid’s tale ladies.
The movie ends with their intertwined hands.
Enjoyed the movie? What did you think, did it live up to your expectations? Leave some love in the comments.
Austen Fan? Read the Pride and Prejudice Recap here
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