Emma. ★★★½

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich. . .seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence.

What's that period about, huh? Other than helping to distinguish this version of Jane Austen's novel from other adaptations, what is it telling us? Well, it is a period film, so there's a certain pun-ish wit to it, which ends up reflecting the tightly wound cadence of the film. Since we are not used to seeing punctuation in film titles, the period's inclusion does gesture back to the prose origins of the film and maybe tells us a little bit about Autumn de Wilde's approach here. Eleanor Catton's script hews faithfully to the source's language, but what I was even more taken with was de Wilde's aesthetic choices. Even though the production utilizes multiple practical locations and natural landscapes, every piece of fabric and element of staging has been so stringently controlled that there's often a remove from the world of the film. At once, de Wilde's incorporation of makeshift prosceniums, even, bright lighting, and meticulously designed sets provides a sort of theatricality. Or, maybe more accurately, a cinematic equivalent of what one might envision in their head as they read Austen's book; a kind of pristine, heightened visual that only our imagination could create and maintain.

But, of course, the period also creates a full stop; a sentence comprised of only Emma. As multiple characters are quick to remind her (and us), Mrs. Woodhouse is no one's equal. She is gorgeous, kind, talented, and clever. Or she is in the way that anyone with the privilege of wealth and status appears to be. All of the cut aways to the Woodhouse servants and staff rolling their eyes or stifling frustration suggest what de Wilde's 'take' is going for: a satire of privilege. It's all very manufactured and propped up like a facade or backdrop, yeah? It relies on everyone else buying into it. Emma learns exactly this, that even though the world has bent to her whim so far, it won't always do so.

(I'm also fond of this film for introducing me to Johnny Flynn's music.)

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