October 25, 2014


Wow. My FIRST Period Drama review!! To anyone reading this blog it wouldn't seem as if I were a huge period drama fan, but I am. A VERY big fan. I have no idea why that hasn't transferred to my blog a little more than it has! :)
So, in participation of Heidi's Discovering Emma Blog Party, I am reviewing my favorite Emma adaption, the lovely 1996 version starring Gywneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.
I'm not going to go over the story, as I assume anyone reading this has read, seen, or at least heard of Emma. If you haven't, you should read the book. Or check out Heidi's posts for more info on Emma.
Oh, and there are spoilers. So be warned.

Anyways, I think the fans of the 1996 version are in the minority (the more popular version being the 2009 Romola Garai and Johny Lee Miller adaption), and while I see some things that could have been better in this version, I think overall it's such a sweet, bright, and accurate portrayal of Emma.

Gywneth Paltrow is a lovely Emma. She's funny and stubborn and scheming, all while being perfectly polite, gracious, and genteel, as her character is. The one thing I remember disliking about Romola Garai's Emma is that her posture and mannerisms were slightly unladylike at times, which is not found in this Emma. She always acts with dignity and her voice is so polished. She is how I would imagine Emma to be, since she's in a high social distinction and all.

Many of her dresses are very pretty, my favorite being the aqua one pictured on the left. I don't particularly care for how high the empire waists on (most) of her dresses are though-it looks almost awkward on her at times! Her hair is sometimes very pretty, but I'm NOT a fan of her tightly pulled back styles. Soft, looser styles look better on her. Thankfully she has a few styles like that in the movie!

Ah, Mr. Knightley. Jeremy Northam is VERY close to how I saw Mr. Knightley when reading the book and his acting as polite, caring, gentlemanly Mr. Knightley is just the best.
Mr. Knightley is definitely one of my favorite Austen heroes and I love him in this film. He's funny, he's caring, he's forever the gentleman and when he scolds Emma on Box Hill-oh, well, wait. I'll get to that soon,. ;)

The point is I love Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.
Can't imagine anyone else!

Harriet is acted very well in this version, although her looks are nothing as the book describes! She's pretty much the only character (to my recollection) whose looks are described in Emma and yet the film makers paid no attention to that whatsoever. "Let's make blonde Harriet a red head!"
Nevertheless, Harriet is very sweet and gullible and has some VERY funny moments.

"Mr. Elton's eyes were brown!"

That part makes me laugh every time. :)

It's so very irritating how much control Emma holds over her during the beginning of the film. When she encourages her to refuse Mr. Martin, Harriet doesn't think twice about it.
Poor Harriet. And poor Mr. Martin! He seemed like such a nice chap.

I certainly feel sorry for Harriet at the ball. It's simply odious how rudely Mr. Elton snubs her. But never fear! Mr. Knightley saves the day!

It's such a happy scene with Emma smiling joyfully at Mr. Knightley for saving her friend from embarrassment.

I will never be able to describe how Perfect (with a capital P) Miss Bates is in this version. She's silly, she's talkative, she's sweet, she's not very intelligent-she's just perfect. So many of her scenes induce giggles.
"PORK, Mother!"
"ANGEL, Mother!"
"Oh. Napkin, sorry."

And her laugh. Wow. Hahaha.

She's just perfection and I feel soooo bad for her during the Box Hill-
Oh, I might as well get it over with shouldn't I?
All right. Here we go.

The Box-Hill scene was simply superb. I don't think it could have been acted any better!

I feel so bad for Miss Bates during that scene. Her embarrassment and confused hurt is so evident. I feel SO angry with Emma during that scene. I'm like, "Yes, go, Mr. Knightley!" when he scolds her.   The "Badly Done Emma" scene is NOT badly done! It's so perfect especially when Mr. Knightley softly cries in his very disappointed voice, "Badly done, Emma."  It's apparent his disappointment in his friend is stronger than his anger. Then Emma's face crumples-I think partly because Mr. Knightley, whom she looks up to so much, is disappointed in her, but also because she starts to see her mistake.                                              
Mr. Woodhouse was pretty meh throughout the movie. He wasn't as funny as he is in the book (although there was a very funny line he had when Emma was holding her sister's baby) and he didn't add much. He seemed almost too active at times and at the end he responded joyfully to Mr. Knightley and Emma's engagement. What?? He's supposed to not like the idea of Emma leaving! I know it was probably done that way to save time, but I think it does an injustice to his character.

Frank Churchill is played by Ewan MacGregor, whom I first saw in Star Wars as Obi-Wan Kenobi, so that was a pretty funny thing to see. Overall he was fine, nothing exceptional, but not bad either. One thing that annoys me EXCEEDINGLY is that the filmmakers had HIM suggest the "Mabe Mr. Dixon sent Jane the piano!" instead of Emma. They totally flipped a part of the story there and I wasn't happy when I saw that! It seemed ridiculous for Frank to be suggesting it. Emma was and is the one who suggested it as she's the ever curious and scheming one.
And yes, his hair is atrocious. And his singing.

Jane Fairfax wasn't really as I saw her in the book (I love the Olivia Williams portrayal) but her acting was fine and everything. Nothing amazing, though. And she was too modern looking, for my taste.

Mrs. Weston wasn't really as I saw her, but she's definitely my favorite Mrs. Weston out of the three I've seen. She was very good in playing Emma's former governess. You can see in the film what very good friends they are, but also how Emma looks up to her and seeks her advice.
Mr. Weston didn't add much to the story and wasn't at all how I saw him, but he was fine otherwise.
I mean come on, he's the luckiest father in all of England. ;)

Mr. Elton. Mr. E. This guy is hilarious, I've NEVER seen a better Mr. Elton. Every scene with him is so funny and this guy totally wins as Mr. Elton.
"A party is a party...but a Christmas party!"
"Everybody has their level."
"I am an old married man."
"A party is a party... but a party on a summer's eve!"
"I hope I am not intruding."
"I do not seize your hand so much as the opportunity to tell you that I am hoping, no, fearing; ready to die if you refuse me!"

He's just so humorous and annoying and ridiculous.

Mrs. Elton was very funny (snort) and she (snort) was acted very well (snort)-okay, I'll stop! :)
(Do you know what I was referencing? Did you ever pick up on her sniffing/snorting during the dinner scene? It's very funny.)
I think the actress who plays her is a bit old for Mr. Elton, but otherwise she's perfectly vulgar and hilarious.

"You and I must start a musical CLUB!"
"Jane! You're a very VERY fragile creature!"
"I'm a great advocate of timidity."
"Well, well, well, I shall have to do something with Mr E to welcome him, hey, Mr E?"

And I love this quote from Emma concerning Mrs. Elton:

"Is it possible that Mr Elton met her while doing charitable work in a mental infirmary?"

One of my favorite scenes is when Emma is sitting with Mr. Knightley in front the fire. She's holding her sister's baby girl and it's such an adorable scene because, to me, it shows what their life might look like a few years later once their married and have a baby of their own! :) Awww...

Finally, once we get through all the matches Emma set up for Harriet (which all fail, by the way), the time Emma thinks she loves Frank Churchill, and when Mr. Knightley is thought to be in love with Jane, Harriet announces to Emma that she has affections for Mr. Knightley.
And then Emma realizes that a match between her two friends would be the most deplorable thing on earth because,

"I have came to see that I do not admire Mr. Knightley as I so long thought.... I love him. So dearly, so greatly. Outside of you and father, his is the opinion that matters most."

Longing and yet dreading Mr. Knightley's return from his visit to his brother, she hopes and prays he doesn't love Harriet in return and that he may come to love her one day. She realizes all the mistakes she's made and that she doesn't deserve a man as wonderful as him. 

And her prayer comes true!

The proposal scene was very sweet and lovely-despite the fact of their leaving out the famous, "If I loved you any less" line! Not sure WHAT the filmmakers were thinking of there....

But they do show their wedding! 
It's so pretty and charming and I love the flower petals-even if there is a "shocking lack of satin!" :)

All in all, this version of Emma is my very favorite, although there were points I liked in the other two I've seen as well! I'd recommend this to anyone. It's sweet, funny, and has such a lovely fairy tale feel to it. It's a perfect Jane Austen adaption.


  1. Yay!! I'm so glad you were able to do this, Natalie!!! :) And you did an absolutely marvelous job....very balanced, enthusiastic, and accurate! Well done, indeed! ;) This film is just sooo lovely....

    And ah yes, the aqua dress.... (I remember an aqua discussion we had here once upon a time. ;)) And I love that line of Mrs. Elton's! "I am a great advocate of timidity." And then there's Emma's reply about Mrs. Weston's manners being a model for any woman....quite priceless---and so funny. And, speaking of Emma's *emotional scene* (when she's with Mrs. Weston in the garden talking about Mr. Knightley), isn't her hair just (I would use the term gorgeous, but it seems too grand)---lovely and delicate and---okay, I can't help it---beautifully gorgeous???

    And oh, another quote! When Mr. Knightley and Emma run into each other at the beginning of the ending scene and she's asking him how he's feeling...."Happy?" :) Just delightful. They're simply splendid and so sweet together.

    I know the story was tweaked....but really, this entire film is (in my humble opinion) just entirely and thoroughly refreshingly wonderful and delightful from beginning to end. :)

    (And oh! A P.S. Your first period drama review here?? That makes it quite a historic moment, doesn't it?? :) I'm so very thrilled it landed on the Emma party! ;))

    1. Heidi~ Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you liked my review! :)

      Yes, I love that part as well. "I was surprised to find her so lady like!" and Emma puts her in her place. :) Ah yes, her hair is very gorgeous in that scene! I love how they're walking around the garden-it's just so fresh and pretty and sweet-the perfect place for Emma to confess that she loves Mr. Knightley.

      Yes, Mr. Knightley and Emma have many wonderful and cute scenes together. I love when she says "I will dance with you if you ask me...after all we are not brother and sister.." and he replies once she's gone, "We are not indeed." Or something like that. That's when you can tell he starts thinking of her as more than a friend!

      I know!! A VERY historic moment! I'm glad it was included in your Emma party as well! :)

  2. Totally enjoyed this review, Natalie! I really don't mind Romola Garai as Emma too much either (except for her mannerisms, which bother me a great deal). I know she is supposed to be younger, but she just seems too mature to be acting in the way she does.

    I always think Mr. Weston (in the '96) looks like he was taken right out of a classic western. :) And this is my absolute favorite rendering of the Box Hill scene: Mr. Knightley and Emma are just perfect! And all of the Mr. Elton's... and Mrs. Elton's... and any lines about the Elton's are hilarious perfection!

    1. Eowyn~ Aw, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
      Yes, I agree. I think Romola was fine as Emma (except for the aforesaid mannerisms!) but I just liked Gywneth's portrayal better. :)

      Heehee, you're right! Tall and with a mustache! He would definitely fit very well in a western!

      YES!! I have never seen a more perfect rendition of the Box Hill scene!! Everything about it is perfection. And yes haha the Eltons are hilarious. I love how she always cuts him off when he's about to speak! :)
      Thanks for commenting!!

  3. Loved it! This version of Emma was the first one I saw so it will always be special to me, though I love the Romola Garai version too, probably because it's longer:-)

    1. Thank you, Beth! This was the first version I saw too. It seems like the first version I watch is usually my favorite, unless another is drastically better! :)

    2. Yes! and I'm actually watching it now! :D

  4. I really enjoyed this review, Nathalie, and it's great to see a Period Drama review up here! You should do more of them!

    Oh, and I nominated you on my blog. http://naomiblog15.blogspot.be/2014/10/famous-people-tag.html
    Please, feel free to ignore this tag. :-)

    1. Thanks so much Naomi! I would love to see myself do more as well, haha! :)

      Thanks for nominating me! I really appreciate it, but I think I'm going to skip it this time though as I feel like I have quite a few tag posts on this blog and not enough "real" posts. I'm going to try to fix that over time. ;) Your tag was really interesting though!

  5. Just wanted to let you know that i totally agree with this post in every sense and that i love love love your blog!!! (and Robin Hood tv show ;)

    1. Aww, why thank you, Lucy!! :D That is so sweet of you to say!

  6. Wonderful review! I ADORED this film and agree with everything you said. You can read my review here

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words


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