Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Emma. exists in a very world, because in essence it’s a mix between Little Women and Downton Abbey. Phenomenal production design and costumes and a borderline Oscar-worthy performance, Emma. seems like the type of movie that is destined for a November release but that I believe tried to be too clever for its own good. Focus has missed the mark on its last few movies, and while Emma. is a strong step in the right direction, it’s not quite the hit I imagine they were looking for. While it may not be my favorite type of movie, Emma. is the next logical step in Taylor-Joy’s career and one that shows she can act in period pieces as well as other genres.
The film follows Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), an aristocrat living a life of luxury in 19th century England. Given her high status in society, she spends most of her time gossiping and figuring out who will fall in love with each other. Over the course of 124 minutes, we watch as Emma manages her platonic relationships while also manipulating others into pairing off into the relationships she sees fit. While this is not the type of movie I would usually go out of my way to see, you have to admit it’s a nice looking and well-acted movie. While Emma. could very well end up as just a February nothing movie that comes and goes, seeing the color and design of these costumes could make it a serious contender during awards season. The movie does a phenomenal job of transporting the audience to the time period and immersing them in the circumstances that the characters are going through. On top of this, when a movie is led by a captivating and interesting lead, it shows that it has more than just the building blocks of success. Taylor-Joy is well on her way to a successful mainstream and critical career and Emma. adds another layer of depth to her resume. With all of this in mind, Emma. still has problems that prevent it from being truly elite. For one thing, I’ve never read the source material, but was it always as mean-spirited as the movie was? Most of the humor comes at the expense of someone else and much of the plot runs through Emma and her desire to interfere with the lives of others. I don’t know if the movie was trying to be ironic or tasteful, but it’s hard to support a character whose intentions exist solely to cause chaos for other people. On top of this, much of the humor comes off wordplay and sarcasm, which lands most of the time, but still hits some rough patches. It can be funny in portions, but when a movie tries to impress us with its intelligence instead of just telling a story, it oftentimes misses the mark. Looking at the title alone and realizing that a period was added to let you know it’s a period piece, you can understand the angle Emma. was going for and how their attempt at comedy can sometimes be more pretentious than anticipated.
Overall, Emma. is more polished and organized than Downton Abbey, but not quite as strong or meaningful as Little Women. Emma. did its job and is more than satisfactory for those who like period pieces, but I don’t see this being the movie that wins anyone else over. It’s interesting that an adaptation of such a well-known book would turn out this way, but Emma. has enough going to be considered as an interesting and well-made movie that is a few decisions away from being something truly special.
Overall Score: 7/10