tek's rating:

Emma (PG)
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This came out in 1996, but I didn't see it until 2018 (on Valentine's Day). It's based on the 1815 novel of the same name by Jane Austen (which I haven't read). I think this must be the first adaptation of the novel that I've ever seen, but I certainly hope to at least see one other, at some point. (There have been several, but the one I mainly want to see, aside from this one, is the 1996 ITV adaptation.)

So... Gwyneth Paltrow plays the titular character, Emma Woodhouse. The movie begins at the wedding reception of her governess, Miss Taylor- now Mrs. Weston (Greta Scacchi), who had been not only a teacher to her, but more like an older sister and friend. It seems that Emma had worked to kindle a romance between her governess and Mr. Weston, so now she fancies herself a matchmaker. So she hopes to spend her time now that her governess is gone by making matches for others. Her focus now falls on her new friend, Harriet Smith (Toni Collette), whom she tries to match with Mr. Elton (Alan Cumming). There are two problems with that: Harriet is in love with a man named Robert Martin, and Mr. Elton is very obviously in love with Emma. She is oblivious to the latter fact, and disdainful of the former. She believes Robert (a farmer) is beneath Harriet's station. Which is kind of weird, because Harriet doesn't exactly have a station. I sort of got the impression that she used that as an excuse for her disdain, but that her real reason was simply that even considering him as a possibility for Harriet would conflict with her own plans. I suppose I might be wrong about that, but... there are other reasons to believe she didn't inherently disdain poor people, considering her charity towards a family named Bates. (Though she found Miss Bates annoying.) So, honestly, I never really had a very solid bead on what to think about Emma. I definitely think she intended to have good intentions, despite always being so dismally wrong about everything. And whats's worse, even once she learned she was wrong about any given point, it wouldn't cause her to admit being wrong about any other point. (For example, once she learned she was wrong about thinking Mr. Elton and Harriet should be together, she still insisted upon believing she was right in thinking that Harriet and Robert shouldn't be together.)

Well, I also need to say that Emma was friends with a man named George Knightley, a close friend of the family who was like a brother to her. It was predictable from the very beginning that the two of them should be together, but Emma was oblivious to that. Well, actually I should say it was obvious that we're expected to see them as an inevitable couple. I have mixed feelings about it, because... he obviously had a better grasp of reality than she did. I think in some ways they were similar, but in other ways they were quite different. (For example, he realized that Harriet and Robert should be together.) But... eventually a man named Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor) comes to town. And he seems to be very similar to Emma, so of course she quickly takes an interest in him. There's also a woman whom Emma can't stand, named Jane Fairfax (Polly Walker), who is friends with Miss Bates. And it's sort of unclear whether Frank is more interested in Emma or Jane... but either way, Emma hopes to match him up with Harriet, despite her vow never to play matchmaker again, after her failure with Mr. Elton. (Also, Mr. Elton ends up marrying a woman who is more annoying that anyone, to the point that even if you happen to dislike Elton, you can't help but feel a bit sorry for him.) Anyway, for awhile I wasn't really sure whether I'd rather have Emma end up with Knightley or Frank. In fact, I wasn't entirely sure whether I wanted her to end up with anyone, because she could be really hard to like. Honestly, I don't think she was a bad person at heart, but the fact that she usually totally ignored everyone else's feelings in favor of what she thought they should feel... was deeply off-putting.

Nevertheless, it's an amusing movie, and it has a happy ending for nearly everyone, I guess.

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