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Posts Tagged ‘Emma 2009 poll’

Jane Austen had a few ideas about what would happen to some of her characters in the future. Emma’s Mr. Woodhouse would live for two more years after his daughter’s marriage to Mr. Knightley, and the letters from Frank Churchill that Jane Fairfax placed before her contained the word “pardon.” These little tidbits of information help to make the books and movie adaptations so much more enjoyable to read and watch.

In my previous observations of the film adaptation of Emma 2009, I mentioned several times that I disliked Romola Garai’s interpretation of the role, but I have now seen the film four times AND rewatched other Emma films, including Clueless, which remains my favorite. I have also been listening to the full book version of Emma on my iPod. My mama sagely told me, “you CAN teach an old dog new tricks”, and after the second episode of Emma aired on PBS last week and after viewing the Kate Beckinsale version of Emma (1996) with a friend, this crotchety old dog has come to the rather astonishing realization that she likes Romola as Emma after all.

Romola’s quick moving, restless Emma captures her immaturity and boredom. Highbury is a town that is much too confining for such a talented, rich and lively young lady, and with so little to do, this self-indulgent and coddled girl can’t help but create mischief. If only Emma could apply herself long enough to become proficient at something, she might have been able to keep her nose out of other peoples’ lives. But she keeps making lists, with every intention of reading the books. As Mr. Knightley observed to Mrs Weston:

Emma reads two pages of Milton

Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawing up at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through—and very good lists they were—very well chosen, and very neatly arranged—sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding.

Emma also paints, but, as her portfolio (and pale painting of Harriet Smith) demonstrates, she is hard pressed to finish these projects.

Emma's very pale painting of Harriet Smith

Emma wished to go to work directly, and therefore produced the portfolio containing her various attempts at portraits, for not one of them had ever been finished, that they might decide together on the best size for Harriet. Her many beginnings were displayed. Miniatures, half-lengths, whole-lengths, pencil, crayon, and water-colours had been all tried in turn. She had always wanted to do everything, and had made more progress both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little labour as she would ever submit to.”

Emma can play the pianoforte prettily enough, but not as well as Jane Fairfax, which bothers her:

Emma is invited to play first at the Coles' party

She did unfeignedly and unequivocally regret the inferiority of her own playing and singing. She did most heartily grieve over the idleness of her childhood–and sat down and practised vigorously an hour and a half.

She was then interrupted by Harriet’s coming in; and if Harriet’s praise could have satisfied her, she might soon have been comforted.

“Oh! if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!”

“Don’t class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her’s, than a lamp is like sunshine.” – Emma, Volume 2, Chapter 9

Sandy Welch, scriptwriter of this Emma adaptation, observed that Cher, the Emma character in Clueless, was bossy but sweet and well-meaning. In her script, Ms. Welch wanted to show that the coddled young Emma had an attitude of “well-meaning snobbishness” and that in all her meddling, she sincerely thought:  “doesn’t everyone think like this?”


And so in my fourth viewing of Romola’s performance as Jane Austen’s wealthiest and most entitled heroine, I have finally come to admire this heroine. My change of heart was especially helped when I reviewed previous Emma adaptations during the last snow storm, and realized just how thoroughly this new production fit in with our modern sensibilities.  I (and a few of my Janeite friends) still think that Romola’s  facial grimaces and wide eyed interpretation of a very young Emma in the first half of the series were overly exaggerated, but she toned down her performance as Emma matured and grew in understanding.

Her scenes with Jonny Lee Miller during his proposal were tender and touching and gave a fitting ending to the series. I shall miss these Sunday evenings watching Emma. Thankfully, PBS will be showing reruns of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, which were originally shown during Jane Austen Season two years ago. Jane Austen fans can take heart that our time with the bonnet series is not yet over.

Now that you have seen all the episodes of Emma, what did you think?

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box hill3

The incident at Box Hill loomed large in this episode. What did you think of the series as a whole? How did it stack up against other Emma film adaptations? Vote here.
box hill mr knightley gift of book
More polls sit below asking you how well the actors fit in their roles. To save you from fatigue, not all the show’s actors are listed.


emma mr knightley

eltons frank

bates harriet mr martin

emma and knightley kiss

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Romola speaks as emmaEmily Hill of the Evening Standard isn’t thrilled with this adaptation of Emma:

The tension of the series comes not from the characters being marooned in stuffy Regency England, but from the bizarre twenty-first-century dating psychobabble. At some point, whoever created this very pretty 9 pm drama seems to have thrown the actual novel aside and adapted the work with exclusive reference to other Jane Austen adaptations and what they think middle-aged women want to down with their end-of-Sabbath Chardonnay. Even the actors seem to be stuck in synthetic Austen-land.

My review of Emma sits at this link

Having watched 3/4 of the film, tell us what you thought of Emma, Episode Three


My rambling discourse about hair echoes my thinking about this production of Emma, for I can’t decide whether I like it or not. Count me as one of the viewers who is still sitting on the fence. I understand that the producers wanted to modernize and jazz Emma up, so that a new audience can appreciate her story. But many liberties were taken in the process,  such as with Jane Austen’s dialogue and wit, which are practically nonexistent. Let’s examine the hair styles in this film. Ringlets were in vogue at the time Jane Austen wrote the novel. They peeped out of bonnets and mobcaps. Even when hair was pulled back into a chignon, ringlets would be fashioned around the face and in front of the ears.

harriet smith hair
In this image, Harriet Smith’s hair style has ringlets aplenty, but is more reminiscent of the updos worn in 1826-1832, when the ringlets resembled poodle ears. Of course, this hairdo did have a certain cinematic effect, for Harriet is a bit silly and naive and the hairdo suits her personality to a tee. If you recall, Mrs. Bennet (Alison Steadman) in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice was given a similar hair do, and every time she spoke, her ringlets shook, making her seem even sillier.

Ballgown 1826

Ballgown 1826

Fashion plate 1832

Fashion plate 1832

In the next image, Christina Cole (Augusta Elton), below, demonstrates the sort of hair/bonnet combination I have come to associate with the era. Her loose ringlets peep out from under her straw hat most becomingly.
augusta elton Christina Cole
Emma was published in 1815. Let’s compare Augusta’s hair and cap to fashion plate images of the same year. Close enough, don’t you think? Her bonnet is different, but there were many modish styles to choose from and one can’t quibble with a becoming straw cap.
1815 cap and bonnet1815 bonnet

Jodhi May as Mrs. Weston

Jodhi May as Mrs. Weston

Why was such a plain and unflattering hairstyle chosen for beautiful Jodhi May? Was her hair Quakerish on purpose so that she would not compete in beauty with Emma? At this point she is no longer a governess, but the mistress of her own house and can dress herself accordingly. Even poor Miss Bates (sitting at right below) shows more attempt at “styling”.

Miss Fairfax and Miss Bates at Box Hill

Miss Fairfax and Miss Bates at Box Hill

This plain upswept chignon was adorned with simple curls in front of the ears, which would have helped Jodhi’s hairstyle immensely, making it seem more “authentic.”
chignon ringlets
In this image, Blake Ritson wears his hair a la Brutus, a style commonly worn by men in the Regency era. Poor Harriet (Louise Dylan) is stuck with the poodle style for the duration of the film.
blake ritson and louise dylan
In the image below, Blake looks like he’s about to enter Bedlam, which I suppose was his hair stylist’s intention, for Mr. Elton IS a ridiculous character. Still, Blake’s facial ticks should have been enough to clue the viewer in. We didn’t need crazy hair as well.

Did the stylists use 21st century hair gel to accomplish this style?

Did the stylists use 21st century hair gel to accomplish this style?

To be fair, men pomaded their hair and created fantastic styles. Witness Beau Brummel in 1805.

BeauBrummellKlein

beau 1805

Which begs the question: Why did Jonny Lee Miller fashion his hair a la the 21st century?

Oops, wrong image

Oops, wrong image

I meant to insert this one

I meant to insert this one

Men wore their hair in many styles, some elaborate, and some quite sleek and modern to our eyes. Jonny’s hairstyle is remarkably close to McMurdo’s below, who, from the neck up would not look too out of place in today’s world.

Lieut Colonel Bryce McMurdo, 1800-1810 by Henry Raeburn

Lieut Colonel Bryce McMurdo, 1800-1810 by Henry Raeburn

Women often wore caps in bed, which they drew over their paper curlers.  Hair was washed only occasionally in those days, and caps prevented pillow cases from being soiled from accumulated oil and dirt.
harriet sick

Ok, we get it. Harriet is SICK. Where is her night cap?

I just had to include the image below. Yes, very young girls at that time wore their hair loose, and, yes, they had to be taught their manners.  (For aren’t we all little savages until our governesses teach us better?) For my finnicky taste, this image shows a woman who is much too modern in hairstyle and facial expression. At the very least, Emma would have been taught to place her hand in front of her mouth when yawning.

yawn Goodness. What would the servants have thought?

I’m still on the fence, waiting to like this film adaptation. It seems that the numbers are tanking and people are not staying with the show (a bad omen for the future of bonnet movies on BBC). Kali at StrangeGirl.com and blog author of Emma Adaptations is still liking this adaptation, although elements are starting to get on her nerves. Please feel free to agree or disagree with anything said in this post. :)

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Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town, to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. – Emma, Jane Austen, Ch 1

Read my review at this link

Market Day in Chilham

Market Day in Chilham

Village of Chilham: The new adaptation of Emma 2009 starring Romola Garai, uses the village of Chilham as the setting of Highbury. Click on this link to Kent Online to see a short film clip of this picturesque village.

Filming in Chilham Square

Filming in Chilham Square

Squerryes Court was chosen to represent the Woodhouse’s home, Hartfield. The manor house was built in 1681 and has gone through extensive changes.  I visited the house during my trip to England in the mid-90’s. The guidebook states: “In the early 18th century, three pavilions to the house were built between the house and the lake. They contained the kitchens, larders, pantries, staff quarters and brew house. The distance from the kitchen to the dining-room was about ninety yards.” The pavilions were then pulled down, and wings were built at each end of the house for domestic quarters. After World War II, these wings were demolished, and the house was restored to its original form.”

Jonny and Romola in the drawing room of Squerryes Court

Jonny and Romola in the drawing room of Squerryes Court

BBC’s Press Office: “The esteemed and impressive cast also includes Michael Gambon (Cranford, Gosford Park) as Emma’s affectionate, neurotic father who unusually allows her to be mistress of their household; Jonny Lee Miller (Byron, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) as Mr Knightley, Emma’s shrewd and attractive neighbour, whose strength of character is in sharp contrast to her father; Jodhi May (Einstein And Eddington, Friends And Crocodiles) as Miss Taylor, Emma’s former governess who marries the good-humoured Mr Weston played by Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet, White Teeth, My Dad’s The Prime Minister); and Tamsin Greig (The Diary Of Anne Frank, Green Wing) as the incessantly chatty, well-meaning Miss Bates whose poverty draws the pity and goodwill of all of Highbury.

Squerryes Court as Hartfield

Squerryes Court as Hartfield

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pollReading Twitter, some people are turned off by the modern approach to Emma 2009. Curious minds want to know what you thought of the first installment of this new Jane Austen novel adaptation with Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller and Michael Gambon. These are your choices:  a yawner, meh, loved it, and will have to wait and see. If you would like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment. Do you love the new film? Do you like it? Or are you sitting on the fence, waiting to see how the series will develop? Here’s my review of the film.

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