Saturday, December 12, 2009

Emma (BBC 2009)

I just realised that I have now watched 4 versions of Emma, the BBC's 1972 miniseries, the Paltrow, the Beckinsale and the BBC's 2009 miniseries. None of them were perfect, with my favourite script so far being of the 1972 series and my favourite cast being from the Beckinsale movie but I can't get enough of period dramas in general and Austen in particular, so last weekend I decided to sit down with a cup of tea and watch the new version.

I did like it as a whole, I had read lots of less than flattering things about it so I was a bit worried but I really found it a nice, if not particularly compelling series. Let's start with the script, it was written by Sandy Welch of N&S fame, the script does change some of things in the book, or better yet we now see happening things we had just been told about. That wasn't bad, it made it easier to understand that Emma's penchant for matchmaking may have come from her earlier success although in the book I felt it had more to do with her status. And it makes Emma more modern in her attitudes and smiles (a lot of smiling there) and so more approachable by the audience. It also explains the big difference between Emma and both Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill who were sent away.

Where I think it fails is that it makes Emma look like a spoiled brat at times, (the picnic scene for instance) and what's interesting about that? She may be young but she is still a dignified young lady in the book. Doesn't mean I didn't like Romola Garai as Emma, I did like her but I wished for a bit more dignity and the question of her relationship with Churchill should, in my opinion, have been left a bit more vague like I felt it was in the book.

Regarding Mr. Knightley I do feel that Jonny Lee Miller does a competent job of it but I wish they had chosen someone with a difference physical presence, someone stronger, looking more mature and compelling and preferently someone unknown. It's becoming a bit odd to see always the same faces showing up. Also his confrontations with Emma are a bit too loud and straight to the point and lack Austen's wit. I did feel Miller's Mr. Knightley got better with time (I preferred in the last two episodes) and I particularly enjoyed him and Emma at the ball in episode 3 but I can't help wondering what another actor would do with the role. Oh and a word for Blake Ritson's Mr. Elton, Tamsin Greig's Miss Bates and Jodhi May's Mrs Weston.

What I did like a lot in this version were the settings and the costumes. Just lovely to watch and the whole series is very well lighted, the outdoors with sunny days, the beautiful buildings and gardens. It all made it a very nice experience.

So, this is a series I would recommend to all Austen and period drama fans. For me there were the reservations I mentioned above that make it a series I'll probably watch again in the future but without the mesmerising effect of a P&P, a N&S or a Jane Eyre.



This review my final entry for the Everything Austen Challenge and one of my entries for the Period Drama Challenge.


  1. Hmm. I only watched the first episode of this one so far (Oh I just can't stop watching whatever Jane Austen adaptation is out there), and I couldn't get into it so I haven't watched the rest yet. I didn't feel the chemistry. Maybe Jonny Lee Miller getting better as the show goes on will help. I'll eventually watch the other episodes. :)

  2. I'm that way too, have to watch every adaptation out there. :-)

    I hope you like the other episodes better.

  3. I have also watched all four makings of Emma, and I thought this one was good but for the scene where Mr knightly proposes to Emma...What a disaster!! Austin wrote such a fantastic scene why re-write it? I felt this scene ruined what could have been a good film. I like 3 of the 4 versions and would love to mix and match them! The '72 version for the script,for Mr knightly I prefered Jeremy Northam (also had a much better script for the proposal scene, even if GP's hairstyle changes 5 times)but JLM does grow on you the more you watch and I liked the majority of the cast in the latest version. I cannot comment on the Beckinsale/Strong version as I felt Kate made a hash of Emma and so only watched it the once. On the whole I would recommend watching it right to the end, its not bad!


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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