Monday, 24 August 2009


Lowdown: A matchmaker encounters professional and personal issues.
We were on a Jane Austen roll. We finished watching the Pride and Prejudice mini-series from 1995, which was immediately followed by a revisit to the 2005 film (you can read the movie review and the comparison between the mini-series and the movie in the comments here). So what else can beat Emma, yet another chicks’ flick of a Jane Austen movie, as a follow up?
I actually watched this 1996 take on the Emma story back when it was playing in the cinemas. I was on a blind date, one of many, but despite the suppressing circumstances I remember greatly enjoying the film; the date itself, although not a disaster, was the usual waste of time that blind dates are. With the burden of expectations at both sides’ end, it’s hard for a blind date to work. Perhaps something similar took place when I watched Emma again at present time; perhaps it was the expectation of a good movie that made my second visit look bland. Perhaps it was me still being jet lagged at the time I got to watch it, or perhaps it was just a case of it having to compete with the superior story of Pride and Prejudice; the bottom line, though, is that I found Emma to be rather bland and nothing like the witty film I remembered.
Emma features an impressive cast, spearheaded by Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead role of Emma. Set in Austen times, Emma is an affluent daughter to an old father who is busy spending her time matchmaking those around her; indeed, as the film starts, we see the match of her best friend (Greta Scacchi) materializing in a wedding. Emma then puts her focus to matching a rather lacklustre acquaintance that doesn’t have her looks nor her charm and not even her status (Toni Collette), but doesn’t seem to have much of a success there. And then there’s the question of Emma herself – who will she couple with? As expected given Austen’s easy old style, the answer is right beneath Emma’s nose, even if it is sixteen years older than Emma.
Emma is rife with wit and a quality cast while Paltrow is definitely skilled enough to carry the weight of a film’s lead. Yet I couldn’t avoid the added feeling that all this wit is wasted on a rather empty agenda. Two hours of matchmaking and contemplations on the rather too mundane were too much for me to enjoy as much as I did Pride and Prejudice. Or, how shall I put it? A good comedy should have more depth.
Representative scene: Emma and a friend practice their archery skills while having a debate so upsetting Emma misses the target and hits a dog.
Technical assessment:
This Australian DVD version has to be one of the worst DVDs ever. The picture is panned & scanned and presented in the old 4:3 aspect ratio; it’s not even anamorphic. What cropped picture we do have seems really bad with poor detail level almost matching VHS and seeming to have originated from something very far from the film’s master copy.
A very basic Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack (as opposed to 5.1) and absolutely no special features accompany the presentation – not even subtitles, which would have been very welcomed in this old style English content.
Overall: Too light for its own good and utterly devastated by a poor presentation, this time Emma can only manage 3 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

Moshe Reuveni said...

We recently watched the 2009 BBC TV mini series adaptation of Emma. I didn't like it...
Having four hours at its disposal allows it to expand the level of detail and provide more clarity in its story telling. However, it also exposes the Emma story to be not as good as Pride & Prejudice.
I didn't like the actors much either. In particular the lead, who isn't half as good as Paltrow.