Confession, I just read Emma for the first time this year. I loved it. And it also made me realize that every movie adaptation of the book I’ve ever seen gets it wrong. No matter how accurately or cleverly the plot points are presented, there’s something underneath that’s missing from them all.
Let’s take a closer look. Emma, at least on my first reading, boils down to these essentials:
- A woman in a rut struggles to find her footing when her little world is upset by her best friend’s marriage.
- Insecure, she deems everyone she knows inferior and a poor/non-replacement for her best friend. In her loneliness and frustration, she indulges in petty competition with women she perceives as threatening and wastes time and energy on pointless and ill-conceived romantic entanglements.
- Along the way, though, she finds a moral compass in–and develops fond feelings for–a warm-hearted, one-named authority figure, who expects her to grow up and do better.
In short, I seems to me that the most essentially faithful re-telling of Emma for a modern audience is not the Paltrow, not the Beckinsale, not the BBC version with Johnny Lee Miller (well, ok, I actually haven’t actually seen that one)…It’s not Clueless, though you know I’ve got nothing but love for Clueless.
No, no I’m not. Look!