Emma Falls Short Of Standards Held By Clueless

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as "Emma Woodhouse" in director Autumn de Wilde's EMMA, a Focus Features release. Credit: Focus Features

Emma is the fourth different feature film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel to come to the big screen since Clueless was released in 1995.

Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a strong turn as the title character with as much screen time as the film allows her.  Much like Regina in Mean Girls, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the “queen bee.”  She has no rivals.  Well, this seems like the case until she brings Miss Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) under her wings with the hope of matchmaking.  If you’ve already seen Clueless and there’s no reason here to think you haven’t, you already know what’s bound to come next.  Emma and Harriet are going to have a falling out because Emma doesn’t think Robert Martin is good enough for Harriet to marry.  Emma has her sights set on Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor) as a match for Harriet.

There’s really no need to rehash the plot.  After all, this film is the gazillionth adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.  I’ll have more on this here in a few moments.  Basically, if you know what happens in Clueless, you know what’s going to happen here.

Looming in the distance is Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn).  In this instance, he’s the brother of Emma’s brother-in-law.  We all know how this is going to end though.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave, of course.  All I need to say here is Paul Rudd and you know what’s going to happen.

Bill Nighy essentially serve’s as the film’s comic relief, Mr. Woodhouse.  There are many points in the film when he’s complaining of a draft or cool coming in.  You can’t help but chuckle before the act starts getting old.

In a perfect world, Alexandra Byrne would be a contender for her costume design.  However, the film is being released in February.  It’s very rare that a February release would be a contender for the Oscars but let’s keep Byrne’s design on the radar come the end of the year.  Her designs are exactly the type of clothing that tend to win Oscars.

Long before Clueless was released in theaters, Emma had been adapted six times on television.  Two adaptations came following the 1995 release.  Where Clueless is a contemporary retelling, this film is more or less sticking to the book.  Obviously, you’ll see where the former is influenced by the source text.  After watching Emma, Clueless remains the perfect adaptation of the source material.  Beautiful costumes just aren’t enough.

DIRECTOR:  Autumn de Wilde
SCREENWRITER:  Eleanor Catton
CAST:  Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells

Focus Features opens Emma in theaters on February 21, 2020. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.