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Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ Miniseries (2009) Review

March 1, 2011

Always up for a new interpretation of any favorite Jane Austen novel, I was keen to try this version upon knowing of its existence, though, there is always the trepidation of , `Did they get it right?’. For me, as long as the rendition is within the spirit of the morals, mood, story and style of Austen, I can accept little variances, alterations and additions. Am I a true Janeite? I do think that I am. Was I disappointed in this one? Not at all, I assure you.

Thoroughly eager to be treated, I sat down with my pretty tea cup and saucer (filled to the brim with a warm and delicious favorite milky drink) and with my split, toasted and buttered English muffin (crumpet) on the side. I knew not entirely or precisely what I was about to experience, but with so many fine British actors I had seen before (who generally guaranteed fine performances), and the BBC period piece promise of plenty of English Country eye candy deliciousness, I was confident that I’d be highly entertained.

Yes, there was a treasure trove of teacups, crystal and china; candle holders from the interestingly rustic to glamorous candelabras; wonderful furnishings and paintings, color, décor and costuming; yummy old English and older architecture from the quaint cottage feel and village row housing, to the country manor and even the abbey or castle style. And then, of course there were the horses, always a personal must and favorite of my own. Who could object to horses? And what is more manly than a man on a horse, I ask you?

Well, after all that preamble, for my part, let me share that this version of Emma is gradually turning out to be my favorite. I watched it back-to-back several times upon receiving the DVD (not in one night, but night after night). Each time I was reaching the ending, I knew I wanted to see it from the beginning again as soon as possible. I still love the Kate Beckinsale version and quite like much of the Paltrow one, but, beyond the fact that this one is longer and therefore has more to offer in that way, there is all the more in other ways as well.

The added back-story of when the key young people were little (and lost their mothers to death) was done wonderfully and sets the stage for our goodly understanding of many of the characters a little more than we might have done before. Michael Gambon quickly and thoroughly charmed me as Mr. Woodhouse. Who could not love that darling man, the way he loves and wants to protect his family and even friends, and to keep them always near him? Gambon’s interpretation may seem too subtle to some, but, to me, it is his gentle genius showing once more. Romola Garai sparkles as a delightful Emma throughout, and she evokes plenty of laughter at her mishaps and managements. Her natural beauty is even overshadowed, in a lovely way, by her happy ease of spirit in translating this persona of Emma. This Mr. Knightly, by Johnny Lee Miller, seems to me by far to be the most likeable of any before. I can truly believe that Emma could love him in the end. Indeed, and to be sure. His disparity of age melts away to a mere trifle and then to nothing at all. The Mr. and Mrs. Elton we have here, are each excellently hilariously entertaining. Miss Bates and her mother are sympathetic figures, more than ever before. This Frank Churchill seems a perfect fit too – just the right balance for this character. Yes, this Emma has promptly turned into my own personal favorite.

Add to all that, the extra special features on the DVD were a true treat and my only complaint is that there wasn’t more – much more! My added request to that is a widely and easily available soundtrack to match – the music was also wonderful!

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