Following the antics of a young woman, Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy), who lives in Georgian- and Regency-era England and occupies herself with matchmaking – in sometimes misguided, often meddlesome fashion- in the lives of her friends and family.
In case you haven’t been reading the news and have been avoiding the internet and all electronic devices for weeks now, you may not have heard that several upcoming feature films have been delayed in the wake of the coronavirus. Just this past week, John Krasinski’s horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II was set to hit theatres but was ultimately postponed with no new release date.
The same was the case for blockbusters such as Mulan and Black Widow, in addition to the twenty-fifth James Bond picture No Time to Die, as well as a plethora of others. As a result of the coronavirus rapidly spreading, most movie theatres across the world have closed temporarily, meaning that movies that have recently been released have little to no chance at making their budget back.
So, Universal Pictures have taken it upon themselves to do something absolutely unprecedented and unheard of in the industry – release their new theatrical films on video-on-demand already. Among their new VOD releases are The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and the film I will be discussing today, Emma – a movie that I wanted to see back when it was released in February but wasn’t able to catch a showing of it. But now thanks to the on-demand release, I was able to.
Being that I am a big fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s work in the past, I was greatly looking forward to seeing her in Emma, a period-piece with a comedic spin. Throughout the film, nothing is ever taken deathly seriously, which was a delight. Director Autumn de Wilde manages to find a near-perfect blend of comedy and drama, but one never outweighs the other.
The screenplay by Eleanor Catton is incredibly smooth and smartly written. By far one of the best scripts of the year so far, she injects a sense of love and heart into this Jane Austen story and does a terrific job at doing so.
Where Emma truly shines is in its depiction of the life of the titular character and the relationships she has with the individuals around her, namely Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). Taylor-Joy and Goth have amazing chemistry, and none of their scenes ever feel forced. Throughout the duration of the film, the two women learn a lot about each other and also learn important life lessons that will change them forever.
Seeing the way these two characters interacted with one another and witnessing the way their lives are drastically different created for a beautifully powerful contrast and great entertainment. However, Emma is definitely one of those movies that takes a while to get going. With a running time of one hundred and twenty-four minutes, there are certainly some scenes that feel inconsequential to the grand scheme of things, and there are a handful of sequences that drag.
If you were to watch this movie and tell me that you thought not much happened with this story, I would not blame you or be surprised. This is what I like to call a “talking movie”. If you are somebody that likes a movie with a ton of exciting things happening every other scene, you’re probably going to loathe this film, because there aren’t any crazy sequences like that here. Instead, what we get is a slow-moving but ultimately rewarding character study.
Aside from the story elements being mostly great, the standout element of Emma is without a doubt, its performances. Particularly from Anya Taylor-Joy, Mia Goth and Johnny Flynn, each actor delivers an immensely quiet yet riveting performance that I will not soon forget.
It also contains some stellar, top-of-the-line costume design that absolutely needs to get recognition come the upcoming awards season. Every single costume looks gorgeous and intricately put together. This accompanied by the truly astounding colors that pop thanks to the immaculate cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt make Emma truly shine. It’s a film that is not without its missteps, but when it gets going, it’s greatly entertaining. Handsome, clever, and rich, indeed.
Quiet, impressively funny and dramatic, Emma is a period-piece done right, even if its story takes a little bit to get going.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: PG for brief partial nudity
Directed by: Autumn de Wilde
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release Date: February 14, 2020
Running Time: 124 minutes