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Blu-ray Review: Emma.

May 19, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A beautifully crafted and dryly humorous adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel of the same name, Emma. is a very enjoyable period piece that finds the perfect sweet spot between feeling sparkling and fresh while also remaining true to its 1815 setting.

The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role of Emma Woodhouse, a young woman who lives with her father (Bill Nighy) at a sprawling estate in the English countryside, and fancies herself as a matchmaker to those around her after marrying off her former governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan).

The story’s cast of characters includes Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a young woman of unknown parentage whom Emma has taken under her wing, and is trying to set her up with the pompous vicar, Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor). But matters become complicated by the fact that Emma’s interference causes Mr. Elton to fall for her instead of Harriet, while Harriet is tempted by the advances of a local farmer, Robert Martin (Connor Swindells), whom Emma deems beneath her.

Emma expresses interest in remaining unattached and merely coupling up those around her, but she is nonetheless intrigued by the prospect of a wealthy man named Frank Churchill (Callum Turner), who remains off-screen for the first stretch of the movie. But the ideal romantic partner might just be right in front of her in the form of Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn), a childhood friend who is unafraid of taking on Emma’s pettiness, and in fact seems to delight in calling her bluff. Complicating matters further is the arrival of Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson), the niece of a local busybody (Miranda Hart), whom Emma views as a natural rival due to her ability to take attention away from her.

The film marks the feature directorial debut of Autumn de Wilde, a music video director who brings her great sense of colour and style to the screen. One of the first things that needs to be said about Emma. is that the film looks marvellous, with a lovely pastel colour palate made up of pink, lilac and yellow. The sets almost look like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, and provide an irresistible backdrop for the story. The costumes by Alexandra Byrne are colourful and vibrant. The sumptuous visuals are matched by a wonderful score from composers David Schweitzer and Isobel Waller-Bridge, as well as some very nice uses of traditional folk tunes.

Taylor-Joy, complimented here by her natural blonde hair after gaining notoriety through her much darker roles in horror movies like The Witch and Split, is perfectly cast as Emma, a young woman attempting to pull the strings of everyone around her. Austen herself described Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” but many readers have felt differently over the past two centuries, and Taylor-Joy ensures that she maintains an air of likeableness without taming her selfish edges. Flynn serves as an appealing romantic lead, sharing great chemistry with Taylor-Joy as the two verbally bounce off of each other.

Nighy is a highlight of the supporting cast, delivering a wonderfully understated comic performance made up of amusing mannerisms and pitch perfect line deliveries. Gorgeously crafted on a technical level from its production design to costumes, Emma. is a light and airy period piece that finds humour in the social interactions of its time, gently poking fun at class systems and offering a delightful world for viewers to inhabit for a couple of hours.

The Blu-ray also includes a selection of ten deleted scenes, a surprisingly hefty eleven minute gag reel, and the three featurettes A Playful Tease, The Autumn Gaze, and Crafting a Colourful World. These are followed by a commentary track featuring de Wilde joined by screenwriter Eleanor Catton and director of photography Christopher Blauvelt.

Emma. is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 124 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 19th, 2020

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