Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Big Screen Books: BBC's Emma

You've already heard me wax poetic about Jane Austen's intrepid heroine, Emma Woodhouse, and the amazing recent efforts on the part of Pemberley Digital to make her story live again. However, you've also already heard that for the month of January, Emma Approved is taking a brief hiatus... and it's slowly but surely eating me up inside and if I didn't take drastic action soon, I was destined to suffer the same tragic withdrawal that affected me the first time I finished Pride and Prejudice in the eighth grade.

Thankfully, my cure for lack-of-Darcy was simply to watch the movie on repeat, so if that worked then, why wouldn't a little more of Emma in my life relieve the pain of the hiatus? I turned to BBC's 2009 adaptation  as a stand-in for all of my Emma/Knightley feelings...

This version - served in four hour-long episodic installments - stars Romola Garai as our affable Emma, Micheal Gambon (aka, Dumbledore) as her father, Mr. Woodhouse, and Johnny Lee Miller (aka, Elementary's Sherlock) as Mr. Knightley. Another significant casting standout - for me, at least - included Mrs. Elton, as perfectly played by Christina Cole (you know, the mean blondie opposite Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants). The least you can say about this miniseries is that it has some seriously good-looking and talented people running the show.

One of the things you can always count on BBC for is that they take the time to honor one of their own, and this adaptation of yet another Austen classic is yet another perfect example of that. I had just rereading the book previous to watching the miniseries, as a means of tracking the accuracy of the action of Emma Approved as it unfolded (...and we're going to go ahead just ignore the extreme nerdiness of that sentence), so I had a very strong grip on the ties between conveyance of plot in both versions, and I can tell you that it was damn near perfect in every aspect.

I've already commented on the pretty people, right? Well, let me elaborate: Romola Garai - an actress I've never encountered before with a mouthful of a name - is Emma to perfection, in my book, playing the demanding and stubborn heroine with an incandescent enthusiasm and youthful verve that you can't help but wish the best for, which is difficult, as it is a little difficult to make her a sympathetic character (Remember, Emma's the one whom Austen herself said no one other than her "will much like")! She's totally the standout here, and the fact that she and Johnny Lee Miller have such excellent on-screen chemistry only sweetens the deal further. The two of them steal the show completely - as they should, duh - and it made it all the more agonizing to watch their chemistry build up so slowly... but that's just how the book was written!

Special shout outs to the costuming team, for making sure everyone looked timely and appropriate while also reinforcing the status of the characters: I was dying over Romola's outfit options for Emma, which weren't overly numerous, but still all beautiful and perfect for maximizing her own sweetness and the whole "gentility" factor. The guys looked suitably dapper as well! Not a hair out of place on anyone, which makes it suitable that they won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Movie. The soundtrack is also pretty outstanding, and worthy of a good listen.

Anyways, I  think that well contains my Austen madness for the time being. However, there's still two more weeks of not-enough-Knightley stretching before me... we'll see how things go. After all, there's always the Bollywood Emma adaptation (titled Aisha) to try my hand at!

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