Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, Toni Colette, Ewan MacGregor, Alan Cummings, Gretta Scachi, Juliet Stevenson
Firstly it is important to say that despite being American, Paltrow is an absolutely perfect Emma. Jane Austen is one of the most popular authors for tv and film producers currently. This film proves that even non-Brits can do Austen and win!
Devoted fans of the book may be a bit shocked at the liberties taken with plot and speech patterns, but like Emma Thompson's script for Sense & Sensibility before it, this film captures the mood and feel of the book well.
Paltrow is the meddling matchmaker Emma Woodhouse. A kind hearted girl, Emma tries to match her friend Harriet Smith(Colette) with clergyman Mr Elton(Cummings) only to discover Mr Elton is keen on Emma herself. Meanwhile, family friend Mr Knightly(Northam) watches with interest.
The film suceeds for a number of reasons. Firstly there are uniformly excellent performances all round. Paltrow and Northam are an attractive pair. Toni Colette struggles more than Paltrow to keep her Australian accent hidden, but she is a natural comediene and portrays Harriet as an awkward, ungainly but gentle simpleton. Cummings is suitably oily, and Juliet Stevenson is a scream as the awful wife he ends up with. Mother and daughter, Sophie Thompson and Phyllida Law are perfect as the impoverished Miss and Mrs Bates aswell.Only Ewan MacGregor seems not quite right in this film. His is not a face that works in period film for some reason.
The script is brisk and witty, and the director has made the most of some wonderful countryside, with England looking at its most beautiful.
The major success of the film though is Gwyneth Paltrow. Accent aside, she is outstanding here. She looks perfect; beautiful but in a non threatening way. Her Emma has good intentions but is rather spoilt. Paltrow shows this well, and as the lead character, carries the film magnificently. 8/10
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