Emma 2009 Part I


Romola Garai as Emma WoodhouseBroadcast at 21.00 (9 p.m. for you old-school types) on BBC One.

Gentle Readers in the UK, the world awaits your verdict with bated breath.

55 thoughts on “Emma 2009 Part I

  1. Lisa

    Well… I wanted to like this. I really, really, really wanted to like this. But I just can’t. The music is lovely. The costumes are not bad. The settings are beautiful, if nothing extraordinary. On the other hand, the narrator is awful and unnecessary. The dialogue is worse, it probably is the thing that ultimately kills the whole thing for me; the language is all too modern, the rhythm of it is strangely off, the words and expressions wrong. And there are all sorts of little add-ons that don’t ring true – I hated the bit where Emma instructs Harriet on table manners, and I hated it, every time, when Emma said “the poor”. Why not just use Austen’s original dialogue, honestly?

    I love Romola Garai, but she appears all too modern in this, and just way too mature for the role. Also, I think the relative ages are wrong – Mr Knightley, Mrs Weston and Harriet are all too young compared to Emma. Harriet is an idiot. Miss Bates is even battier than usually. Michael Gambon is just nothing like Mr Woodhouse of the book. And it won’t get better – Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill don’t look very promising…

    What a wasted opportunity.


    • limpdance

      You’re so right.

      I too wanted to like it! Why don’t not leave Jane Austen alone if they feel she’s not good enough? The BBC better think about hiring Emma Thompson next time. She gets Jane Austen!


      • Julie P.

        I’d be afraid that Emma Thompson would leave out important scenes from her script the way she did in S&S95. I read the book after the movie, and was really disappointed she couldn’t find room for Willoughby’s apology — why all that extra time with Margaret?


  2. witwoud

    Terrible, just terrible. Crass in every way. Could only watch ten minutes. A plonking, witless, blundering travesty. If you’re going to hack about Jane Austen to such an extent, why bother doing her at all?

    I mean, fancy replacing the lovely, famous first sentence of the novel with such an insipid line, ‘The sun always shone on Emma Woodhouse,’ accompanied by a shot of an ugly baby sitting on the lawn. And why introduce us to baby Emma, baby Frank and baby Jane? (Why do adaptors always feel the need put in back story?) And when we finally meet adult Emma … good grief! Huffing and jeering and writhing in her seat while Miss Bates speaks … honestly, in terms of poise and intelligence, Cher in Clueless was far better. I wonder if the film-makers actually read the novel, or did they just read the blurb and found that Emma was ‘spoiled’?

    In conclusion, let me just say: harrumph.


    • Tell us what you really think, witwoud! Your comments explain why reviews have been so thin online. One wonders if the BBC knew it had a clunker on its hands and didn’t send out reviewer DVDs. Most curious. I live in the US, and the few snippets of film I’ve seen make me squirm. Visually, the scenes look lovely. But take the actors out of their Regency setting, and you would think they were moving about in 21st century London.


    • supergran

      Just want to correct a comment you made, witwoud. You spoke about the ADULT Emma huffing and jeering and writhing in her seat while Miss Bates speaks. I think you’ll find Emma is still a young teenager at this point because her sister is still not married. Makes her rudeness a little more excusable.


  3. Jane Odiwe

    BBC Emma – if you like Jane Austen tampered with you might enjoy this production, but so far there is not a lot which is recognisable as Jane’s in language, tone, wit or style.
    The tiny parts which are Jane’s words are exquisite – of course – but they are very few and far between so far!


  4. Lanta

    I thought it was okay. I wouldn’t say it was absolutely fabulous, there are definitely things worth criticising, but it could have been a lot worse. I personally quite liked getting the back story, and the actress does a good job of playing Emma I think.


  5. Maisie

    I didn’t care for the female lead, I actually didn’t think she was very attractive, all that gurning! And she seems to have a huge mouth. She reminded me of the actress who used to be terribly nervous around Hyacinth Bucket (a UK comedy programme) I quite enjoyed it and Mr Knightley (ex Mr Angelina Jolie) is a nice bit of eye candy.


  6. Kari

    I just finished watching my *cough*downloaded*cough* version of episode 1 and I’m glad I had very low expectations. Like many others, I was disappointed when I saw the previews. The tone and dialogue seemed off, so I lowered my expectations accordingly and actually found myself able to enjoy watching Part 1. I like Jonny Lee Miller and Michael Gambon in their respective roles. I certainly put part 1 miles ahead of the latest Persuasion and Mansfield adaptations which frequently had me covering my face and cringing. Part 1 wasn’t perfect, some parts were downright strange (Emma commenting that her, Frank and Jane were bound to each other?), but all-in-all I found it lively, bright and occasionally funny. I will watch all 4 episodes if only because I feel invested in Jonny’s performance.

    A beef though, what was with all the waving hello? That put me off slightly.


  7. I think it’s quite nice. Of course, I’m also going in trying my darndest to like the thing. And I’ve quite accustomed myself to the dialogue – after all, if I want word-for-word, I can always go to LibriVox.org. My one serious quibble is that the intro isn’t very strong – structurally, it’s not very dramatic. I think the one really missed opportunity is the way Mr. Weston already has the umbrellas when he falls for Miss Taylor – in my opinion, having him run across the way to borrow the umbrellas would be much more dramatic.

    But all in all, quite, quite nice. I’m loving Romola (such a pretty smile), think Gambon is fantastic, think Mr. Knightley’s script is wonderful (even if he’s rather lightweight), and think the final quarrel in the episode really highlights the strengths of both sides – not just weighting it heavily towards Mr. Knightley, but actually letting Emma score some points, and then having her be crushed when Mr. Knightley comes back only to lecture some more.


  8. Helen Wilkinson

    The BBC Emma or ‘The tale of an ill-mannered modern girl teaching Harriet Smith how to eat soup.’ Michael Gambon – 10 out of 10 for playing a likeable old chap who is nothing like Mr Woodhouse. Miss Bates – 9 out of 10 for her coal scuttle hats. The script 0 out of 10 – actually I’ll give it a 1/2 for the title. Jonny Lee Miller half a point for wearing his trousers the right way round. Hartfield 10 out of 10. I longed for this – I wanted it so badly. It hurts.


  9. Maria L.


    First the good news: the production values are wonderful and the locations are beautiful. But I expect no less from the BBC.

    I am liking Miss Bates. She seems more fully developed than usual and her portrayal is more nuanced. In fact, I found her less batty than usual.

    The costumes are pretty.

    The bad news? I think if Romola Garai is going to spend the next 3 episodes grinning like a Cheshire cat, popping out her eyes, and waving to all and sundry I am going to hurl. This production is managing to turn Emma into the coarsest, most ill-mannered young woman in Highbury; Robert Martin looks like a paragon of elegance and good breeding next to her. Romola seems to have taken a page out of the Alison Steadman school of Austen interpretation. Major letdown.

    Mr. Woodhouse looks fit and chipper so he ends up just coming across like an idiot. And what’s with Blake Ritson’s ceaseless funereal tones? I was actually looking forward to seeing him tackle Mr. Elton, but thus far I’m so disappointed in his interpretation.

    There are so many wrong notes struck in this first hour. The intro with the voiceover sounded like we were in for one of the Grimm fairy tales; I found it very bizarre. I suppose Mrs. Goddard’s school does not run to teaching young ladies table manners, since we are forced to sit through a totally stupid scene of Emma teaching Harriet how to eat soup in the middle of a dinner party. And the Woodhouses would NEVER have let Miss Bates push her mother in a wheelchair all the way home. Simply ridiculous.

    JLM is just meh. He lacks the stature, the voice, the maturity—he’s not awful, he’s just not Knightley. The script has him hanging around Hartfield all the time like some pet dog. And Garai eats him up in any scene where they are together.

    I guess I did not lower my expectations nearly enough as far as the script goes. Dumbing down does not begin to describe what Sandy Welch has done to Austen. Where they do include some of Austen’s lines they are glaringly superior to the “modern” reinterpretation of the rest of the script. When Austen “speaks” it is the only time this production manages to have any spark–and that’s not nearly often enough.

    Okay, I’ll take a deep breath and stop ranting now.


  10. Reeba

    I agree with most reviews so far.

    I won’t say I was disappointed, because after being fed with those ghastly ITV adaptations I sort of got used to bad adaptations. And the previews prepared me.
    But still.

    Oh where, oh where have the days of Persuasion (Amanda Root) and S&S (Emma Thompson) gone, let alone P&P95????

    😦 😦


  11. Boris

    To those disappointed, I would recommend second and third watching of the episode, they will be surprised at the improvement of their opinions and yet what we saw in the first episode is not enough to make a decided opinion on the adaptation as a whole.

    As the producers said in behind the scenes, four hours were enough to make a good adaptation, but it brings the risk of exaggerating. Thus I think there is too much quarrelling and arguing between Emma and Mr. Knightly. The episode ends up with an about 10-minute (of 57-58 min for the entire episode), quarrelling scene between them, which I find rather prolonged.

    All those clips are deceiving as to the actors’ performance, the voices, etc… Actors play their roles quite well, especially Jonny Lee Miller (Mr. Knightley) and Jodhi May (Miss Taylor/ Mrs. Weston).


  12. slw2004

    Oh dear, I don’t think I’ll fit in with this crowd at all. I expected it to be terrible and, admittedly, some things do irk me about it: Blake Ritson’s Mr Elton being the primary thing closely followed by Harriet Smith. Outside of that I actually quite enjoyed it. It fits in very well with the trends that can be currently seen in the adaptation business, I like the sadness that is so present in so many of the characters (Miss Bates for example isn’t simply a woman that won’t be quiet but is, instead, a woman who is very sad and keeps talking to fill the silence), and I like that it is not entirely from Emma’s POV- Knightley and Mrs Weston get to have their conversations too. I think expecting it to stay “true” to the book is an unreasonable expectation and that each new adaptation is a new text, a new product and should be treated as such. Fidelity arguements do not work for me because we all read the books with different brains and so have different ideas of what characters look like, what inflections are used, etc. But I am aware that that is just my opinion.

    Basically, I don’t think it was that bad. Parts 2-4 might be awful (Frank did not look overly impressive in the “next time” coda) but the first part was ok.


  13. Sylvia M.

    I just watched the first episode and have to say that in some ways I like it and some I don’t. It feels like they’ve taken the scenes from the book and said, “OK. Here these people are saying this, lets get behind the scenes and film what they do and say off the page.” I know it’s supposed to be Emma, but it almost feels like I’m watching a 2009 author’s Regency novel. Someone who’s writing about the past in a good, entertaining way, but not someone who has actually lived during that time period.

    I like it, so far, but will probably still like the ITV one with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong the best, with the 1972 one close behind.


  14. Vivien

    I’m going to disagree with most of the comments so far because I really liked Part 1. The locations were wonderful and so was the acting (with the exception of Mr Knightley who seemed a bit light-weight). And I thought the part of Miss Bates was especially well played. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of it.


  15. Kristen

    I agree and disagree with all of these opinions to some extent. Was it an excellent adaptation of Jane Austen? No, decidedly no. Was it a pretty good period drama? Yes, I think you could say that. Better than ITV’s versions? So far, yes! Would I watch it again? Probably? Would I buy the DVD? I would have to wait until I have seen all of it to decide.
    When I started to watch it, I decided to the forget the fact that Jane Austen wrote a magnificent book called “Emma” and instead simply imagine that this is just a lovely period drama that I haven’t seen before. With that view point, I rather enjoyed it. If I had looked at it as Jane Austen’s masterpiece of “Emma”, I would have been sadly disappointed.
    The locations are beautiful, for the most part (hats excepted) the costumes are lovely, the music is quite nice, and the actors almost look the part. However, the dialog is sorely out of place, the constant waving, lack of bows, and the propriety and politeness that characterized the period has vanished tarnish what could have been a very good Austen adaptation and reduce it just a fair to good random period drama.
    Emma waves to everyone and is quite immature, more so that I remember from the book. She and Mr. Knightly actually yell at each other–which seems to be quite an easy way out of dealing with their relationship, I think it much harder to show their anger when it is more moderated and controlled by the language they used in the book.
    I thought the narrator unnecessary, because the actors’ faces and actions seemed to indicate everything that the narrator was saying. It also seemed as though it would be found in the opening of a Monte Python something or other.
    The teaching of table manners was absurd, Harriet would have known the proper way to place her napkin and the proper method for eating soup.
    However, I must own that I liked Mr. Knightly. No, he is not my all time favorite Mr. Knightly and his exasperated sighs were too much. He also not Mr. Knightly from the book. However, I thought, on the whole, he wasn’t a bad Knightly. Too young? Yes, he almost seemed to be making the same mistakes Emma was making, but thankfully, I saw nothing in him to indicate Edmund had returned. So, I was happy!
    My advice? Watch it, at the very least support period drama. If you can take it as an modern retelling of Emma with costumes, you might enjoy it!


  16. Reeba

    As Sylvia M mentioned (I think) it can be watched as a Regency romance written by a modern author.

    It is definitely better than the recent ITV adaptations.
    From the recent adaptations Davies’ S&S was much much better. In fact it was quite good.

    @Kristen Watch it, at the very least support period drama.

    Sadly this is supposed to be the last. I wish they had gone out with a bang.


      • Sylvia M.

        I agree with what Reeba says. I just wish someone would explain to them that people like period dramas, but want them done right. We all are glad to watch made up period dramas if they wouldn’t base it on an already written book. I don’t think anyone objected to the idea of Lost In Austen because they were not trying to do the real story and let everyone know that.


  17. Maria L.

    Sylvia M: “it almost feels like I’m watching a 2009 author’s Regency novel”

    You are absolutely right. For that matter, I would welcome watching a Sandy Welch “original,” bonnets and bodices make me very happy and she is a good writer. But in this case, my interest was in watching Emma, or at least something approximating Austen’s Emma. Thus far, I am underwhelmed.

    Reeba: “It is definitely better than the recent ITV adaptations.
    From the recent adaptations Davies’ S&S was much much better. In fact it was quite good.”

    I agree on both counts.

    In fact, the Davies’ version of S&S (as well as Emma Thompson’s, I might add) are perfect examples of how you do not have to be hung up on a fidelity argument, as someone referred to it above, to enjoy an adaptation. Both of those versions took great liberties with Austen. Yet at the same time, I think they managed to capture Austen and her characters very well indeed.

    Boris: “To those disappointed, I would recommend second and third watching of the episode, they will be surprised at the improvement of their opinions..”

    Sadly, that usually doesn’t work for me. The recent Persuasion, for instance, never improved one iota for me 😉

    I won’t say this Emma isn’t worth watching. But, for me personally and in spite of my already lowered expectations, it’s still quite a bit disappointing.


  18. Sylvia M.

    Giving the characters modern gestures, mannerisms, etc., doesn’t work with the costumes. They would have been taught from baby hood not to do these things. They wouldn’t have been watching other people do them, so I doubt it would have entered their heads.

    Do you think the writer is trying to tell us that Isabella has the personality that she does because of all her children? She certainly wasn’t Isabella of the book in the scene out of the window. The children of Sir John Middleton in the recent S&S should have taken a cue from these children. I did like the Brunswick Square scene, though.

    I think the portrait above the fireplace at Hartfield is supposed to be a young Mr. and Mrs. Woodhouse with Isabella and Emma.

    Maybe they’re trying to do a version called “Emma Handheld”, a fly-on-the-wall, version where they go behind-the-scenes in the book instead of what’s written directly on the page. They keep talking about one called “Jane Austen Handheld” about P&P. We have yet to see it being made.

    Really, I’m supposing they have viewed all three other versions and said, “What can we do to make this one different?” That was kind of my impression of Persuasion 2007. They probably think we only have three-second attention spans. Gone are the days of having a conversation where the actors just sit or stand in one place and talk. I’ll admit it did get a little tedious in some of those seventies and eighties BBC productions where they stayed in one place for a long time and had long conversations without the camera moving around the room a little bit to get some surroundings, not just constant closeups of the subject’s face for an indefinte period of time. In this case the people are constantly moving from one place to the next during one conversation. The camera just has to run to keep up with them. Well, I take that back. Little Dorrit did have some good, longer conversations where the people stayed in one place to talk.


  19. Just seen the first 15 minutes, and Romola doesn’t look like a lady (unlike Gwyneth or Kate B), but she behaves quite fine. Gambon is miscasted in my opinion, and Miller fails as Knightley, if he were played by Armitage.
    I’ll coment again when I see the rest.


  20. Hmm, I’ll keep it short as much has been said.

    Not liking Romola Garai, feels a bit pantomimy to me, not sure about Jonny Lee Miller yet. Found it a bit of a yawn so far, but am willing to try the rest of the episodes. I liked the rest of the cast that I’ve seen so far, and as usual the attention to detail with constume and location is well done.


  21. Tierney

    I’m actually quite fond of Jonny Lee Miller in general, just not particularly in this. To be quite honest, he’s just boring. Knightley isn’t supposed to be boring!

    Another thing that bothered me in terms of Knightley is that he looks roughly the same age as Emma. I’m not asking for Knightley to look “old” in comparision, I just think that he should look like he has more experience and wisdom than Emma does.

    The narrator and the constant waving, as others have said, definitely took me out of the moment as well.

    Even though the promo for this looked dreadful, I was hoping it would be decent, if not spectacular, because of the involvement of Sandy Welch. I’ll be watching the rest, but I’m not terribly excited about it, which is a shame.


  22. Elaina

    I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the first episode. It felt too modern, too spastic, too unlike Jane Austen. There were so few actual Austen lines – including the ever famous opening line – that it felt totally dumbed down. Romola overacted, to me. She was too bouncy and wiggly – she wouldn’t just sit still. I wish Jeremy Northam would just be Mr. Knightley in every version from now on. I loved that man, he was perfect for the role! I’m very disappointed so far, to be honest, especially when I loved Sandy Welch’s versions of Jane Eyre and North and South, and I usually love Romola Garai. I’m hoping it’ll improve, but I’m rather dubious at this point.


  23. Ela


    Could you point me in the direction as to where you found the clips for Episode 1 – I’m been searching YT since yesterday, and I haven’t found anything. Thanks!


  24. LaBarge

    I would also appreciate seeing the Emma clips, if they can be seen in the U.S. My email address is el_bargo AT yahoo DOT com



  25. Reeba

    Now that I am composed and having taken a deep breath to get over my initial disappointment, I feel compelled to write some positive things about this Emma.

    Considering there are two views of Emma, one where she’s quite mean and not so very nice, Kate Beckinsale will do there.
    But the other one where her actions are meant to be kind, and where she follows misconstrued ideas, she’s quite cheery and lively. GP is marvellous, and this I would say is being carried on by Ramola though in trying to give her her own individual interpretation she seems to get quite one dimensional.

    Emma does run around and laugh;
    One example in this extract from chapter 9, about Elton.

    CH 9;
    “After this speech he was gone as soon as possible. Emma could not think it too soon; for with all his good and agreeable qualities, there was a sort of parade in his speeches which was very apt to incline her to laugh. She ran away to indulge the inclination…”

    This is what Ramola seems to be doing too much.
    Anyway I thank the script writer with all my heart for this. Of course we have no idea what she might yet turn out to be.

    The dialogue is out of the book, because most of the time in episode 1 we see off stage action brought onstage.

    I like some humourhere;
    -They show the 8/9 years old Emma, rolling her eyes, and huffing and puffing under the table with Miss Bates going on about the letter, and then we see ‘7 years later’ she’s still doing that (without a break on screen) and the older Emma continuing with her huffing and puffing. LOL!!

    -I quite liked the ‘Chinese’ comment, and the innocent Miss Bates’ expression and response. (We all agree this Miss Bates is excellent).

    -The cake eating, or rather ‘not’ eating scene, when Mr perry about to serve himself on a plate, and Mr Woodhouse starts with how right Mr Perry’s advice is about the cake, we see Mr Perry hastily put the plate away, and stand with his hands held together in fron of him in a sheepish obedient pose. LOL!

    I didn’t mind the scene about the argument regarding the proposal of Martin because they don’t scowl, or look thunderingly mad. They are loud, yes, and they don’t mouth JA words, yes.

    And lastly I think it started off quite well by putting everyone in their respective destinies.

    I hope that in the coming episodes Emma gets more multi dimensional. To be fair she hasn’t had the opportunity yet, but she does look too unlady like, and I miss all those Regency manners of bowing etc.


  26. Mandy N

    I don’t claim to be the expert on Emma; but did anyone find the opening scenes too sombre ? A funeral, followed by little Jane then young Frank leaving Highbury in rain is reminscient of Dickens rather than Austen. If Sandy Welsh is attempting to instill a darker moral tone on ‘Emma’; it jarred with too-casual dialogue you people are discussing.
    I like Romola Garai and thought she looked an attractive, lively Emma but she lacked the poise and confidence I associate with Emma.
    Also like the Westons, Miss Bates but a bitter Mrs Bates isn’t a charecter I recognize… Mr Elton too obviously admired Emma rather than compliments for both Emma & Harriet.
    Agree the costumes, town sets, Hartfield & gardens are lovely but dialogue unlike Austen and the drama is dull… Well, I did find myself admiring the Woodhouses’ dinner set in green and gold trim when they were eating the soup; I’d appreciate it if anyone can tell me the name of the china design.
    I really wanted to enjoy Emma 4 and can only hope it may improve. It is better than the ITV films.


  27. Sylvia M.

    I’m not sure about the Woodhouse’s china set. I noticed it also and liked it. Is it the same as the Bingley’s china set in P&P 1995?


  28. Merrilee

    It’s just absolutely awful. Just watched the first episode (well half of it was all I could manage) on BBCi player. I agree with all the comments about modern accents and mannerisms. Knightley is not bad but lacks gravity (plus I noticed him dropping his ‘t -s’. Emma is undignified and unladylike. The dialogue is sloppy and boring.

    I amused myself with the beautiful settings and that’s probably the best to be got out of this so far. Don’t think Jane Austen would have been amused.


  29. Cinthia

    I to have seen the first minutes and since I must judge it first-hand, I am firmly set on watching the entire 4 episodes eventhough ultimately I might not like it. After all, I have seen MP2, P&P3 and the ITV ones and I do not think it could be worse than those, even with a Welcherization of dialogue and a not so entirely gentleman-like Mr. Knigthley.

    Visually, it seems to be up to the BBC high standards, decent costuming, very good locations and I like the silouette drawings in the beginning credits.

    But I am still not convinced by this Mr. Woodhouse, nor by JLM, and the script does sound modernized as we were afraid it would.

    One first quibles in the plot changings and additions. I do not like the voice-over and evenless a male voice-over. In my mind, the narrator has been always a female voice, and I am pretty aware that by literary theory the narrator’s voice is not precisely the author’s, but not for nothing Virginia Woold claimed that Jane Austen is the first authoress to have written like a woman and not like a woman pretending to be a man. It should be a woman’s voice!!! But in general, I think I understand why we are given the background scenes. Second, now are we supposed to believe that Emma also planned Isabella’s and John’s match? Pleeaaase! Bah! Another minor detail, my ears are wrong or the second Knightley child has been given a different name, he is no longer little John, but James (?!!!). What the heck is going on. They are little Henry, little John, little George, little Isabella and little Emma.


    • supergran

      Sorry Cinthia – you’re entitled to your views, but I can’t believe you’re quibbling over the name of a child. It’s as though you’re LOOKING for faults. Your point about the voiceover is a fair one, but surely it’s unreasonable to nit-pick!


  30. Julie P.

    I’ve only seen the first few minutes but, as some posters at C19 have said, the whole narration thing reminded me of “Pushing Daisies.” I LOVED “Pushing Daisies,” but it doesn’t work for me here. I found it very distracting.


  31. Erika

    I’m bucking the trend here…. Emma has always been my least favourite heroine, and my least feavourite book (because I just did not like her). I did not like any of the Emma films I have seen so far (and I think I watched them all). None of them made me like Emma, or Mr Knightly, or any of the other characters.

    I didn’t expect much joy when I watched the first episode, but I must confess, that I like it very much. Emma is finally shown as someone I can understand and like (even with all her facial olympics) and Mr Knightly is also perfect in my view. Harriet is perhaps a little too dim, but all the other characters are fine in my view.
    I have watched the first episode four times this week and have enjoyed every minute of it….. enough to make me re-read Emma again.


  32. Reeba


    In my post#28 I wrote;

    “The dialogue is out of the book, because most of the time in episode 1 we see off stage action brought onstage.”

    *highly embarassed*

    I wanted to say;
    “the dialogue is not out of the book.”

    I am actually taking Sylvia M’s advice and going to enjoy it as a Regency romance.
    With great effort I am going to push back my disappointment.

    Maybe I’m speaking too soon.
    There are still 3 more episodes.


  33. Karenlee

    I’m going to join the minority here and say that, although it is not without its faults, it is better than I’d expected after that ghastly trailer. The main thing I miss is that they have indeed somewhat jettisoned many of the small, but extremely significant, social rules and regulations that defined Jane Austen’s world and those of her characters. It was those that provided the framework which helped differentiate ‘respectable’ people from those who were not, and it was also the (almost) colliding against those boundaries that formed the basis of a great deal of the excitement/tension/moral essence of her stories. One of the key conundrums that I think fascinated Austen, and which she was always exploring in one way or another in her work, is ‘How does society say we [i]should[/i] act towards one another, how does it compare to how we [i]do[/i] interact with others and – last, but most importantly – what are [i]really[/i] the most important things in human relations and intercourse (eh, in the 19th century meaning of the word, of course).

    When I see Emma wildly waving to all and sundry, opening her own front door and tossing logs on the fireplace herself, I think they are ignoring that issue. On the other hand, it is only those of us who are very familiar with what a well-to-do young lady in that time should and should not do who are shocked by it. And you cannot blame a 21st century scriptwriter for trying to tweak the story into something that would appeal to those who are not equally familiar with how things were done back then.

    A couple people have wailed about the ‘soup and napkin’ scene. I myself am sure that Harriet Smith, even during her first visit at Hartfield, would have known how to properly use both, but I actually found it a pretty effective way to establish – for an audience unfamiliar with Austen – Harriet’s innate uncertainty (along with the fact that she probably shouldn’t even have been there in the first place) as well as her future adoration of and reliance on Emma.

    My second biggest quibble is Jonny Lee Mayer. He is simply no ‘Mr Knightly’. Too short, too young, too much ineffective finger wagging. He is also much too obviously already attracted to Emma. Actually, now that I think about it, this is my biggest beef. It should come on Mr Knightly almost as a blow towards the end of the story (just as it does to Emma) that they love each other. On the other hand – and completely contradictorily – I must say that this version, better than any of the others I have seen, establishes that Mr Knightly is the only one who has ever dared to give sound and constant criticism to Miss Emma about her behaviour.

    I am not quite sure what to think of the director’s emphasis subtle emphasis on the sadness and emptiness of Miss Bate’s life. Jane herself described her, despite the privatations under which she lived, as being one of the happiest creatures in existence, feeling blessed with so many good friends. I would rather keep seeing her that way – not an object of pity. Her rolling her mother in her wheelchair away from the gates of Hartfield went almost too far for me. Come on! Neither Mr Woodhouse or Emma would never have allowed that!
    Ah well, we must await the following episode to formulate a more informed opinion.


  34. asma

    To be perfectly honest I thought it was good. I’m going to go out on a limb and say – excellent. Yes, I’ve watched the ‘Emma’ adaptations before and yes I liked them very much. My favourite however, was the Kate B version. I thought that version had everything spot on until NOW! I think I found my favourite Emma! Romola combines a sense of brattiness, naivety that I like very much. Yet she is sophisticated too. Her air makes her an impressive figure that would certainly dominate any meek country girl into submission. Garai perfectly brings out Emma’s fiesty side and her prodding one. Yes, her actions of making the fire, etc seem out of place but I don’t really hold Romola accountable – its the script. Romola has for me made Emma into a 3D character and presented her with all flaws. It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful too 😀

    Its no wonder JLM is in love with her lol but seriously, he is like a quirky, frustrated, lover/friend that watches Emma’s continuing schemes with a bemused look. None of the other Knightleys’ had that. His scolding voice – is the only sane one in a carefully crafted Emma world (the only sane one too it seems). JLM carries this off VERY well – yet he does a bit on the young side. And he is yet to beat Mark Strong for the tortured soul title.

    Yes, there were a few hiccups here and there – with some casting and scenes. But the adaptation its finding its feet (or rather the writer is). I don’t know why writers take some risks and leave them half-baked with no relation to the story. I mean would a lady participate in chores? hell no! What is the point of that? Yes, Emma was an active girl, but she loved works lokking after her FATHER and making elaborate plans *shrugs* I don’t know I just hope they know what they’re doing…


  35. Reeba

    @asma – Yes, Emma was an active girl, but she loved works lokking after her FATHER

    I think she was completely involved in running the house as well.
    We are given some examples of how she arranges for get togethers at Hartfields, arranges for meals, and there is this part about Mr Woodhouse refusing to sit at the head of the table and take on the resposibility of carving etc. Managing to get things ready for Isabella and children when they visit etc.

    So Emma managed a lot of things, but yes, I don’t know how far she would go in handling some things, some time if need be, by herself. That’s debatable.


    • asma

      Yes, I get that Reeba. But what I don’t understand is her rushing around making fires and opening doors to men who have no realtion to her – when there would have most certainly been servants to do all that. It just seemed off to me. It was a strange way to portray her naivety and child-like manner :/


  36. janehettie

    Hi ladies!
    I’m a huge italian fan of Jane Austen’s novels… and their adaptations, of course! Do you mind sending me an e-mail telling me where I can find Emma clips?
    Thank you in advance!

    janehettie (plushenkina@gmail.com)


  37. Beth Rang

    I’ve seen two episodes online so far. Having read many ghastly reviews online, my expectations were very low, and I’m enjoying it in spite of its faults.

    On the plus side:

    I like how the adaptation gives us an understanding of why Mr. Woodhouse ended up being the way he is. The scene with him holding his two little girls in his arms touched me. Although this was something added, I think it makes sense given how the back story in the novel is set. I hated Emma (the character) when I first read the book. Now whenever Emma drives me crazy, I remind myself about how young she is, and how the loss of her mother must have influenced her. Why not give her father the same consideration in light of the loss of his wife? And perhaps I find myself in the minority here, but I like Michael Gambon in the role.

    I also like some things which aren’t as kosher to the books, but which are interesting nevertheless. One is seeing how Emma really does seem to be leading Mr. Elton on, even though it wasn’t intentional. This makes his negative attitude toward her and Harriet make much more sense. Perhaps it helps that we actually have an attractive Mr. Elton. I also find the way Miss Bates is handled to be interesting. No, I do not think it’s faithful to the novel, but the actress does an excellent job of showing the angst underlying her chatter.

    On the negative side:

    I truly like Romola Garai as an actress and loved her in I Capture the Castle, but I think she’s dreadful as Emma. She captures her more somber moments well, but her happy and/or sassy moments seem to be filled with overacting. I was very surprised and this was an even bigger disappointment than the script. She’s also too old for the part. I would love to see an Emma that was actually young enough to be Emma, or at least looked young enough.

    Then they gave us an actor to play Mr. Knightley who’s only about 10 years older than the actress playing Emma (according to IMDB), and he’s one of those men with a baby face, so he looks younger than he is which doesn’t help. They look way too close in age, and the script isn’t doing him any favors either.


    • Brian M

      I agree with almost all your remarks. Even before seeing the episodes I wondered what the hell they were thinking when they cast this movie.
      Garai looks too old.
      Miller looks far, far too young. Put them together and they look the same age. How could you miss this?
      Jane is not nearly pretty enough to elicit the jealous reaction from Emma that should underlie all their dealings.
      Mrs. Elton is, if anything, far too pretty. Prettier than Jane, Emma, and Harriet.
      It’s like the people that cast the movie never read the book.


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