Emma. ★★½

Maybe this is an unfair take to put on Autumn de Wilde's Emma, the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, but I couldn't help feeling rather unsatisfied by it in the aftermath of Greta Gerwig's Little Women. That movie was such a shot in the arm for these kind of literary adaptations, and one whose message was so powerfully indicting the way that so many of these stories are all about which man is which woman going to marry, and how dreadfully unfair and uninteresting that is. Meanwhile, Emma from start to finish is all about weddings, all about what man is going to get each of the women in the movie, and it feels like it gives a lot of the power to the men. Emma, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, doesn't really feel like she has a lot of strength or agency in this thing, and I had a hard time even getting a handle on her character from one scene to the next. She never felt particularly witty, or cunning, nor did she feel dim in any way, or fawning, or really much of anything. I think Taylor-Joy is a great screen presence, but I could never get invested in this character because I couldn't get a read on her, and I don't think that's by design.

Of course, the whole concept of this movie being exclusively about criss-crossing romances could have been more compelling if any of the men were interesting whatsoever, but they aren't. None of these guys, save for the always delightful Bill Nighy basically playing himself, have charisma or screen presence, and I kept finding myself baffled by the idea that any of these women would find a single one of them desirable to begin with. The women, mercifully, are great. Taylor-Joy, despite my reservations with the lack of insight into her character, is a compelling lead. Miranda Hart is an absolute charmer, as she always is, and brings plenty of laughs to the table. Gemma Whelan and Amber Anderson have interesting characters, who I think could have been a lot more interesting if we had gotten to spend more time with them. And then the star of the show, the real MVP, is Mia Goth, who has such a great, immensely charming sensibility to her in this thing, and just lights up the room whenever she's on screen. She was my way in here, and every time she came into a scene my attention was at its absolute peak.

By and large, the movie is fine, but that's about all that I can muster up for it. The costumes and sets are very pastel, lots of pinks and yellows, and I think they're gorgeous to look at. It's a unique look for this kind of period film, and it adds this candy coloring that sets it apart. I only wish that it had felt a bit more cinematic to really exentuate those positive aspects, but a lot of the aesthetic felt rather television quality instead, like I was watching something on the BBC instead of in a theater. And, frankly, with how underdeveloped a lot of the characters felt in a two hour movie, maybe a television adaptation would have been the smarter way to go. Alas, we get stuck with familiar rom-com antics, plenty of plots revolving around miscommunications that could have been easily solved if this story existed in anything resembling reality. Maybe that's just not the kind of movie we were living in here, but it always distracts me and pulls me out of the experience to a degree. But, you know, this was fine.

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