Given that so many recent art-house movies have centered so squarely on serious social issues — not that there's anything wrong with that! — Emma, a lighthearted comedy based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name, comes off as a welcome change of pace.
The movie opens area-wide on Friday.
Like the Austen novel, the film is set in England in the 1800s. A comedy of manners, it takes on issues of class, sex and social status, and director Autumn de Wilde doesn't need to alter the source material too much to make it seem relevant and modern.
The plot revolves around Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), a particularly precocious young women who lives in a giant mansion with her eccentric father (Bill Nighy), a guy who still refers to his other daughter's wedding as a "bad day."
Much to her possessive father's delight, Emma declares she has no desire to marry, yet she likes to play matchmaker. Her skills in this department, however, are severely lacking. When her close friend Harriet (Mia Goth) receives a marriage offer from Robert Martin (Connor Swindells), a local farm boy, she tells Harriet to turn the offer down because she can do better. Emma's neighbor George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) chastises her for the short-sighted advice, but the ever-assured Emma tells him she's never been wrong.
Emma is in for a rude awakening as she discovers she might not know people as well as she thinks. When the mysterious Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) snubs her for another woman, Emma begins to confide in George, and she thinks twice about his criticisms, especially after she says something particularly condescending to her well-meaning neighbor Miss Bates (Miranda Hart) while picnicking with friends and family.
Best known for photographing CD covers and publicity photos for rock bands, de Wilde deserves credit for perfectly casting the movie. Taylor-Joy's model-esque good looks suit the role of Emma perfectly, and Flynn possesses the right amount of charisma to play the cavalier George Knightley. Hart, too, brings pathos to the bumbling Miss Bates.
We probably didn't need another adaptation of Emma, but de Wilde doesn't do the original work a disservice with this fine film.