Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Austen-Philes: Don't Miss It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Austen-Philes: Don't Miss It

Article excerpt


Rating: PG. Running time: 1:51.

EMMA WOODHOUSE is difficult to like - even Jane Austen admitted that - but almost impossible not to love.

In "Emma," the latest movie version of an Austen novel, Gwyneth Paltrow gives a sublime performance as the maddening yet irresistible title char acter. The movie, while not as emotionally weighty as "Persuasion," nor as giddily funny as "Sense and Sensibility," is the third excellent big-screen adaptation of Austen in the past year.

Paltrow shows a fine sense of young Emma's spicy blend of contrary characteristics. Her impeccable mid-Atlantic accent seems just about right for the British squirearchy of 200 years ago.

The rest of the fine cast includes Greta Scacchi as Emma's former governess, now married into her extended family; Jeremy Northam ("Carrington") as the handsome, gracious Mr. Knightley, who is about the only man Emma takes seriously; Toni Collette ("Muriel's Wedding") as Harriet, a girl of modest estate who becomes the victim of Emma's well-intentioned but disastrous matchmaking; and Juliet Stevenson ("Truly, Madly, Deeply") in a very funny turn as Mrs. Elton, who is much more of a snob than Emma Woodhouse, with much less reason.

Austen described her most difficult heroine as a "handsome, clever and rich" young woman who "had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."

"The real evils of Emma's situation," she wrote, "were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself."

Or, as Emma puts it, "I always deserve the best treatment, for I never put up with any other."

In other words, Emma is spoiled and snobbish. But she is redeemed by wit, intelligence and charm, by great if sometimes misapplied good will, by the ability and desire to learn from her mistakes, and by a deep capacity for shame, an emotion she gains plenty of experience with in the course of this delightful movie. …

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