Emma begins with the following description:
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Emma Woodhouse is Austen’s Queen Bee. She is confident in her view of the world and her place in the world. Living with her widowed father (her mother died when she was a baby, her elder sister is married and moved away), Emma is mistress of her father’s house. Unlike some of other the Austen heroines she is not a dependent on the good will of her relations (Mansfield Park), nor is her home entailed away to the nearest male relative after the death of her father (Sense And Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice).
That being said, I will compare three of the filmed Emma adaptations.
Cast: Alicia Silverstone (Cher Horowitz), Dan Hedaya (Mel Horowitz), Josh (Paul Rudd), Tai (Brittany Murphy)
- Pro’s: Amy Heckerling as both director and screenwriter, perfectly adapted the novel. The transition from rural 19th century Highbury to mid 1990’s Los Angeles is seamless. The movie is totally funny, totally quotable and iconic in it’s own right.
- Con’s: None.
Cast: Kate Beckinsale (Emma), Bernard Hepton (Mr. Woodhouse), Mark Strong (Mr. Knightley), Samantha Morton (Harriet Smith)
- Pro’s: It is a well done adaptation. The casting is on target and the screenplay is true to the novel. Beckinsale, as the title character is both infuriating and charming. Strong is sexy and annoying in the all knowing big brother sense.
- Cons: Mark Strong’s Edwardian Mullet, which really is the only con I can think of.
Cast: Romola Garai (Emma), Michael Gambon (Mr. Woodhouse), Jonny Lee Miller (Mr. Knightley) Louise Dylan (Harriet Smith)
- Pro’s: This adaptation is well done and so very funny. Garai and Miller have this bickering brother and sister relationship that is just so endearing. There is almost this Benedict and Beatrice style relationship where they begin to fall in love through the bickering and in fighting.
- Cons: None.
And the winner is……. all. I can’t choose.