I know it said "NOT YET RELEASED" but I have seen it. I can't deny my desire to broadcast my superior circumstances, my sense of privilege, my marked high opinion of self. Man I want to rub it in. As a male audience who goes to chick-flick for both nostalgic and professional reasons (I'm a writer), I found this Emma not likeable at all - just as Jane Austen feared. And this is precisely why I highly recommend this film to Men and Couples. If romantic films are made to make us feel in love, then these films would have done a disservice to the type of Romantic Comedy that Jane Austen invented. We go Jane Austen's films to learn profound insights of human nature, and that we are ultimately lovable, warts and all.
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
Jane Austen: 'she is a character who no-one but myself will much like.'
Jane Austen was revolutionary in her time because she really reversed the readers' anticipation for what a novel's protagonist should be like. Or whether she MUST be liked. She apparently didn't want our unreserved love for Emma. She irked us about Emma's misgivings, appalled us with her prejudices, and drowned us in drudgery of domestic lives and if we the readers ever fail to pay attention among long paragraphs of free indirect style (the narrator embodies the character in a dramatized tone), we missed Jane's scheme and tricks:
If the novel's heroine are supposed to transcend her ignorance of her flaws in the end and rise above her delusions, we the readers must be firstly buried knee-deep down there with her too! How did this New Emma Film fared?
Only after a few minutes of this Autumn de Wilde version of Emma, I have pent up frustration about how little she know how to make audience laugh and make us like Emma - about how wooden and ceremonious every character walks and talks, and how superfulously the pastal colored sets match against the exuberant costumes. I wonder if she is going for a fairy tale / fable look? a girly look or a heightened version of Regency period look. And I must say, how unattractive some of these cast look. I imagine people who grew up with a dreamy version of Mr. Knightley will curse to the screen.
I feel ready to walk out -- until the first pivotal scene - the argument between Mr.Knightly and Emma. Realism regains the visuals and Emma regains my attention. de Wilde's Emma is a version that incises into the class difference that permeate all Jane Austen's novel but is never directly exposed and made to breathe, until now. And this made all the difference.
Rom-com, even when done right, is formulaic. Boy meets girl - and girl's has a male confidante that advises and helps and hilarity ensues leading to the girl's final moment of clarity - the realization that she had been wrong all the time, the 'one true love" is he who gets to know her, being with her the whole time. Sounds familiar?
Yet, what are we to feel about other characters that comes to this story - the ones that doesn't entangle with our protagonists romanticly? And can we at all rationalized judging someone? And how are we to judge them harshly by their appearances, their means, their demeaners? their actions?
Emma will judge them fairly. like. instantly, but fairly. She thought. And to comply with Jane Austen's free indirect style - de Wilde makes us audience judge equally harshly of this film's slew of characters. First of which victims - is Harriet Smith.
Here is the 2009 BBC version :
And brace yourself for the new Harriet Smith:
I hate that they cast Mia Goth who I think is a lovely actor. but she is NO HARRIET. And why did they bury her beauty in brow make-up and the deliberate effort to make Mia look so comparably homely looking? And eventually I am persuaded. Harriet Smith is no beauty, no genteel, and has no prospects. She is an object of Emma's infatuation, not to her. NO. An infatuation with the ideal that Women gets whatever she wishes for, provided a clever, smart and rich Emma Woodhouse wills it. Why the hell not?
Emma is blind to all the erroneous judging she did, but with confident idealism in the perfection that she conceived on Harriet, that there will be a Happy Ending for her - it is in perfect contradition that women shine. Women inspired men to love unconditionally - first romanticly - by petrifying men who feel the glare of a judgemental goddess but secondly and more eternally, by forcing them to bring out the best in them - that they CAN be kind, be patient and be generous.
But something got to give - the bold sentences bear the inherent sin of EGO. Emma must meet her EGO.
Therefore thirdly, Jane's Emma inspired men and women to genuinely repent. And that is why I crown Jane Austen as the matriach of rom-com. For in Emma, we reveal human beings' ultimate cognotive dissonance - the self-delusion that " I am incapable of hurting people. " When Emma acted out her worst, her ugliest self and instantly regreted and was chastised for it. We see the best of humanity. No, not in Emma, but in Mrs. Bates. Her capacity for forgiveness, also resonating in Harriet in a later scene. Emma witnessed the goodness of previously irrating human beings and finally come to her clarity - that it is the flaw in her that needs to be triumphed over.
Suffice to say - the film won me over by its end. And the journey I had with it reminded me of how I conceived of the book when I first read it. So I will be watching Ms. De Wilde for her future success. Her Emma, is not likeable. She is, after all, handsome, clever and rich. But we shall endeavor to learn to love her, and better ourselves as human being through loving her.
A romance embodies an ideal that "our flaw can be overcome by love" - Two things in that sentence make us human and Jane Austen mastered the narrative of both. Her greatness, is noticed by but a few:
of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness - Virginia Woolf