Emma: movie (2020)

Posted October 16, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Just what the world needs, another adaptation of Emma. I have four already, and I’m sure there are others.

What I liked:

  • Johnny Flynn naked and not just for the obvious reason! It was lovely to see a Regency gentleman getting dressed with his valet’s assistance.
  • Seeing Mrs Goddard’s schoolgirls out in their red cloaks, two by two.
  • Miranda Hart as Miss Bates. I didn’t think anyone could improve on the many previous incarnations of Miss Bates but her Box Hill moment was superb.
  • Bill Nighy as Mr Woodhouse. I didn’t expect to like him at all, but he actually worked very well as an old fusspot with his fear of draughts everywhere, even though he wasn’t actually ill.
  • The music. Aptly frivolous.
  • Emma and Mr Knightley’s dance at the ball, where he, in particular, very visibly and believably falls in love. I’ve complained in reviews of other versions about the age disparity and the creepiness of him falling in love with a girl he’s known since she was a baby, but Johnny Flynn is hot enough to overcome the creepiness factor, and having him suddenly notice her as a woman and realise that she’s all grown up now is brilliant. Much, much better than the worrying suspicion that he’s actually been in love with her since she was twelve. Ick! I didn’t like him running after Emma’s carriage, though. Silly.

What I disliked:

  • The nosebleed! Ugh. I see what they were aiming for, but still… ugh.
  • The costumes. Emma’s were too stylised and stiff, I hated the corkscrew curls and Johnny Flynn’s shirt points were way too high. I wanted to see his face! Mrs Elton’s hair was anachronistic but it worked well for her. What was the matter with Mr Elton’s vestments? He looked as if he was about to take off. I did like the way Harriet’s hair gradually copied Emma’s, though.
  • Isabella and John. Two whiny by half.
  • The conflation of the ball and Harriet’s attack by the gypsies. I get the point of it, to interrupt a potential declaration from Mr Knightley, but it was so far out of line with the book that it threw me completely.
  • Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax got rather short shrift in this production, sacrificed to too much time spent on poor Miss Taylor’s wedding, and too much froth generally. The Bates ladies, too, weren’t as much in the forefront as usual.


I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this but although I don’t think it’s the definitive version (which in my view has yet to be made), I liked the freshness of the approach and the light-hearted tone.