As any Jane Austen fan, I was eager to see the new BBC Emma adaptation. Until now, my favorite was Kate Beckinsale's and while I was convinced it would be difficult to do better, there was hope for something outstanding, something that would surprise me and knock my socks off. The result wasn't quite what I expected, nerveless I did enjoy revisiting Jane Austen world.
When Miss Taylor becomes Mrs Weston, Emma tries to find a new friend. In one of her visits to Mrs Goddard's School she notices a charming young woman, Harriet Smith. Not much is known about her except she has a mysterious protector who always paid for her expenses. Emma immediately thinks her future friend might be the illegitimate daughter of a gentleman and decides to take her under her wing.
After the success of her matchmaking schemes with the new Weston couple, Emma is convinced she can find the perfect husband for Harriet. Her first choice is the new reverend, Mr Elton. But she will learn the hard way that her wishes are not always the right ones for the people she loves.
I have to be completely honest and confess right away that Emma was never quite among my JA favourite female characters. She is the kind of heroine difficult to warm up at first, her proud attitude and snobbish comments don't make the task easier. In this new adaptation, Romola Garaï managed to give her the little thing that made her much more agreable and funny at my eyes : a mischievous and free caring attitude that quite suits the character and shows her in a much more sympathetic light. If there were moments where I was not entirely convinced by Romola Garaï's choice, she taught me how wrong I was with her bright smile and bouncing blonde curls. This more immature side of Emma made some things more easily forgiven.
My main complain about this new adaptation is the lack of screen time of Mr. Knightley. Is there a need to explain to screenplay writers that Austen's men are one of the strong points in her novels? I felt Jonny Lee Miller gave us a wonderful performance but certainly he could have been even better if he had the chance. I know I’m not completely rational about this point, but I do have an explanation : I’m a big Knightley fan.
Harriet Smith was probably the most annoying character in the series. If she's gentle and sweet, she's also too insecure and easy manipulated. She gets in and out of love for three different men in a year without much thought. Her permanent whining is something that got really on my nerves.
Now, I couldn't end my review without mentioning the Elton couple. You never really know if someone should slap them or thank them for providing us with some of the most hilarious moments in the series. Christina Cole is absolutely brilliant in this role !
A curious fact about Jodhi May who played already in a period drama with Romola Garaï - Daniel Deronda. There she was the young and beautiful Mirah Lapidoth and Garaï played the spoiled and selfish Gwendolen Harleth, both were about the same age. Strangely, here they must have 20 years of difference...
After watching this adaptation several times, I must say that I find the casting absolutely perfect. The costumes and surrounding were beautiful, as always with the BBC.
In the end, this was a good adaptation that certainly wins after being watched a couple of times, it grows on you without you noticing.