Movie Review | Emma.
Movie summary: In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends. (IMDb)
Much like with Little Women, I have never read Emma, nor have I seen any of the other various adaptations of Jane Austen's work, so at least you can be sure that I went into this with absolutely no understanding of the story or characters - or anything that could sway my influence one way or another. I doubt that anything would've done so anyway, as Emma. is an excellent movie in its own right.
The star of the piece is Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character, proving yet again that she's one of the finest young actresses working today. The movie could be seen as very superficial and slight with a lesser performance thanks to Emma being on-screen for almost 100% of the movie's run-time, but Taylor-Joy always makes you feel like there's more going on and keeps you interested in what she will say or do next.
Mia Goth as Harriet is almost as good in what, again, could have been a thankless role in the hands of a lesser actress. Harriet is very naive and innocent, which could easily come across as stupid or a stereotypical 'bimbo', but Goth works just as well as Taylor-Joy in always letting you know that there is far more going on below the surface than face value would initially suggest.
Despite the magnificent performances of the two actresses, I also have to credit Bill Nighy with putting in one of the funniest minimalist performances I have ever seen. He doesn't have many lines in comparison to a lot of the rest of the cast, nor does he have a lot of screen-time, but he's so much fun to watch when he is on-screen that you know you're going to enjoy whatever happens while he's around.
As for the love interests? In all honesty, I did guess who Emma would end up with pretty much immediately and the roles played by Johnny Flynn as George Knightley and Callum Turner as Frank Churchill are pretty thankless roles, even as they give it all they've got. Neither of them give bad performances, or even anything less than good - they just pale in comparison to the leading ladies.
The rest of the cast are enjoyable enough too, with special praise for Miranda Hart as Miss Bates. She initially comes across as a potential irritation, quickly proves that she's actually very funny and then makes you feel so much for her later on that you'll be surprised at just how much you empathise with what could've been a one-note character.
The humour actually does deserve a lot or praise too, even though it may put some audience members of initially because, as mentioned previously, it can make Emma. feel a little shallow to begin with. However, what the humour is doing is getting you to like these characters and, because they make you smile or laugh, you have a connection to them when things become more serious and gets you to feel more for them than if it had been less comedic than it is.
I really, really enjoyed Emma. and it's the best movie I've seen so far in 2020, just edging out the soon-to-be-reviewed The Invisible Man. I think part of why I like it so much is due to how much it exceeded my expectations - not just from doubting it would match the incredible Little Women, but because so much of what we see initially as possible problems turn out to be laying the foundations for incredible strength later on.
Emma. is a genuinely great movie that uses some superb humour to get you invested in these characters in order to make you really feel for them when more serious moments come up later. Anya Taylor-Joy is outstanding in the lead role, although Mia Goth as Harriet is just as good and Bill Nighy gives one of the greatest comedic scene-stealing performances of all time.