I’ve heard that there is some good-hearted debate swirling around “meteorological spring” versus “astronomical spring.” Simply put, there are those who choose to unofficially usher spring in on March 1, while the cognoscenti are quick to remind that spring will truly arrive later this month, specifically on March 19. All that said, in the spirit of literature’s supreme contrarian, Jane Austen, this year I’ll choose Friday, March 6, to welcome spring. For the record, the Treasure Valley forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid-60s—all the more reason for you to cue up and be among the first to breathe in the vernal freshness of Emma, a rather sublime film adaptation of Austen’s bible of class, hubris and romantic comeuppances. This is cinema’s fifth crack at bringing Emma to the big screen (including a lovely Hindi adaptation in 2010 and the delicious modernization Clueless in 1995). I dare say this Emma might be the best.
Indeed, Emma has all the lace, topcoats and high collars that you might expect of a well-bred Brit rom-com. And this particular Emma Woodhouse, in the personage of the sure-to-be movie star Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Glass), is all pin curls and precocity. To be sure, Emma Woodhouse rarely adores anything more than her own cognition, and fancies herself to be the architect of everyone else’s destiny. But the handsome George Knightly (Johnny Flynn) is Emma’s first (and apparently only) acquaintance that does not indulge her, much to her initial chagrin.
“Emma will never submit anything requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding,” says Knightley.
Ouch. But jolly good, sir.
I’m not quite sure when I first started taking a shine to this new Emma (it was probably in the film’s first few minutes). But I can tell you precisely when I fell head over heels for this visually dazzling effort from first-time feature director Autumn de Wilde—it was two-thirds into the film. The scene is a ball (the sets, costumes and overall production twinkle) when Knightley inquires of the possibility of a dance.
“I am ready when I am wanted,” says Emma.
“Whom are you going to dance with?” asks Knightley.
Emma looks up at Knightley with a gaze that would melt a cannonball.
“With you, if you will ask me.”
To say that there are sparks between the two would be too pedestrian. The chemistry is more akin to fireflies. Suffice to say, your heart will skip a beat. And there are many more to come. No need to call a doctor—you’re simply in the presence of a very, very good movie with a wonderfully happy ending.
As Ms. Austen herself wrote:
“The joy, the gratitude, the exquisite delight of her sensations may be imagined.”