Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a 22 year
old, well-to-do gentlewoman, who lives with her elderly, widowed
father, Mr. Woodhouse (Denny Hawthorne) on the big Woodhouse estate.
Feeling flushed with success after successfully finding her governess,
the newly Mrs. Weston (Greta Scacchi) a husband (James Cosmo),
Emma eagerly tries to find her common friend, Harriet Smith (played
by Toni Collette), a proper husband of means; thus, trying to
be a mentor, and guide in this whole process.
This screenplay, based on Jane Austin's novel,
"Emma," is charming, well directed and well written
by Douglas McGrath, and has a talented cast, who work hard to
portray their characters as envisioned in this entertaining screenplay.
This ensemble cast also works very well together, giving a convincing
rendition of Austin's story, having a lot of fun at the same time.
Gwyneth Paltrow's role as a mischievous, well-meaning
matchmaker, who forgets all about her own love interests, is sincere
and amusing, as she isn't very good at it, and makes a tangled
mess of everyone's lives in the process. The scenes between Paltrow
and Collette are well-acted and enjoyable.
Jeremy Northam was perfectly cast as the brotherly
Mr. Knightley, the honest "friend" to Emma, who really
in fact does love her.
Some of the best scenes are the Paltrow - Jeremy
Northam scenes, (Emma & Mr.Knightley). Mr. Knightley is a
long-time family friend (about 16 years older than Emma) who is
one of her very best friends. Specifically outstanding is the
archery scene, (where Mr. Knightley takes Emma to task for what
he considers her meddling behavior), the big argument scene, (over
Emma's unthinking and unkind comments to the hapless Miss Bates
- played by Sophie Thompson), the party scenes, and the romantic
ending. All through the movie, the audience is given subtle hints
of the affection felt between Mr.Knightley and Emma, even though
Emma remains clueless until the end of the movie, of who her own
true love is meant to be...
Alan Cumming is convincing as Rev. Elton, the
first bachelor that Emma tries to match up with her friend Harriet.
Emma was in for a surprise, when Rev. Elton professes his love
for her instead. Her troubles increase, when Rev. Elton goes to
Bath to recover from her rejection and brings back the new Mrs.
Elton to live at the rectory.
Juliet Stevenson is very entertaining as the
bossy, snobby, annoying Mrs. Elton, adding sparkle to the plot,
as being a thorn in the side of Emma, Harriet, and the governess
Ewan McGregor plays with much aplomb, the handsome
and charming, smooth as silk but secretive Mr. Churchill, who
is a bit of a gossip, and can sing quite well!
Toni Collette is delightful as the sweet, trusting,
innocent Harriet Smith, who eagerly follows the guidance of her
well-meaning mentor, Emma.
McGrath captures the look and feeling of the
story's time setting, culture, and era, making the film to be
delightfully engaging entertainment. The photography, music, art
direction, and overall location of the film help this to be a
great classic of the classic English movie genre. Jane Austin
would be very pleased indeed!