Review | 'Emma' is Familiar Yet Refreshing

From the first cheeky title card up until the final credits rolled, I couldn’t resist having a huge cheerful grin on my face watching Emma.

About 30 minutes or so into this lovely period piece, I felt like I knew this story some how. This is the third American interpretation of esteemed author Jane Austen’s novel “Emma,” so the familiarity was there. 

Full Disclosure: The 1995 classic teen comedy Clueless was a loose adaptation of “Emma” … and is unashamedly one of my favorite films of all time.

This 2020 incarnation is much more faithful to the source material but is still every bit as funny and engaging as the cult film that first started my memories with Jane Austen’s work.

Emma is an absolute joy to behold in equal parts due to the colorful production design and wonderful cast, but more so because the magnetic charm of the film’s bright young star Anya Taylor-Joy.

Joy is Be”witching”

Anya made her feature-film debut in Robert Egger’s haunting 2015 chiller The Witch. She followed up that gripping portrayal with yet another scene-stealing performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2016 hit thriller Split.

With Marvel’s New Mutants dropping later this year (possibly, thanks to Coronavirus), Anya is proving to be a bonafide star. Her showing in Emma further cements the growth of her talent and popularity. Her depiction as the title character, Emma Woodhouse, is commanding and this film definitely serves as a showcase of her talents.

She’s at her best when she’s snobbing about with her best friend Harriet (played by Mia Goth), who happens to worship her the same way modern fans in today’s world “stan” their favorite celebrities. When she is not gossiping about neighboring families and friends, Emma secretly tries to find a love interest for Harriet because, as she says, “matchmaking amuses me.”

Later as the story progresses, Anya Taylor-Joy shows off her dramatic chops when Emma inevitably learns the consequence of her self-centered actions. Overall, Anya delivers a complete, nuanced performance that should definitely put Hollywood on notice.

A Strong Supporting Cast

In support of the young starlet is an outstanding cast led by the always delightful Bill Nighy, who portrays Emma’s eccentric but endearing father, Mr. Woodhouse. The rest of the supporting roles are rounded out by the likes of Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, and Miranda Hart who was especially hilarious and sweet as the obliviously fast talking Miss Bates.

As a whole the playful film produced a handful of laughs and chuckles, but I would say a good bit came from Mr. Nighy’s deadpan delivery and stone faced demeanor.

In light of the global pandemic that has forced theaters worldwide to close their doors, Emma was the first of a small group of films in the middle of their theatrical run to be digitally released early so audiences could enjoy from the comfort of their homes.

Although not as hyped or flashy as The Invisible Man or Sonic, I think people will be surprised at how enjoyable an experience Emma can deliver.

It’s absolutely unprecedented what has taken place in the world of cinema especially for cinephiles and movie lovers everywhere, but undoubtedly Emma is definitely worth a watch!


All Images Courtesy of Working Title Films/Blueprint Pictures

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