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Emma (1997) - DVD Review

By Widge - posted 07.05.02 @ 5:00 pm
Emma (1997) DVD cover art


Written by: Andrew Davies, based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by: Diarmuid Lawrence
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Raymond Coulthard, Olivia Williams


  • "About Jane Austen"

Released by: A&E
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it.

Emma (Beckinsale) fancies herself a matchmaker. She gets an idea into her head as to who should be hooked up with whom and she just pushes things in that direction. So far, she's been doing all right, but her luck is about to change. She sets her sights on Harriet (Morton) and the local religious head burrito Mr. Elton (Dominic Rowan) much to the dismay of her lifelong friend and verbal sparring partner, Mr. Knightley (Strong). Then there's the matter of Frank Churchill (Coulthard), who she's been wanting to meet for some time and has now shown up. Will Mr. Churchill be the one to finally win Emma's heart? Or will the almost disgustingly perfect Jane Fairfax (Williams) beat her out for Mr. Churchill? Or Mr. Knightley? Or...I don't know, somebody.

It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Jane Austen's work and books of that kind. You know the kind I mean: lives ruined and made on the basis of who loves who with all kinds of machinations and stock annoying characters who beg for you to step into the pages of the books in question and just throttle the fictional life right out of them. Not to mention that the ending can be predicted before the opening credits have stopped rolling. My dislike of A&E's Pride and Prejudice stems from these feelings of mine. With Emma, you get a very similar situation: an overly amorous religious figure, a mysterious and yet romantic outsider, and then a return to the status quo where everything somehow turns out all right. However, the acting and writing with this outing make it much more palatable. Beckinsale manages to make her Emma a very likable--albeit selfish and spiteful--heroine who obviously needs to do some growing up. Standout amongst the supporting cast members would be Bernard Hepton, who plays Emma's father: a somewhat doddering and nervous but lovable old man. Lucy Robinson's Mrs. Elton shows up later to annoy, but isn't around long enough to receive bruises from viewers, so this is good.

As far as special features on the disc go, it's unfortunately sparse. Two screens' worth of a brief bio of Jane Austen is all that you get. It would have been nice to get a behind-the-scenes short docu like we got on the aforementioned Pride set, or better still a commentary from scribe Davies.

In short, if you're a big fan of the A&E Jane Austen films, then you're going to want this as part of your DVD collection. Those of us who would simply like to witness an Austen adaptation that's better than most should probably wait and rent it.

Kate Beckinsale as Emma

Kate Beckinsale as Emma

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Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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