Emma. gets a Wes Anderson-esque twist for the new generation – but can never outdo Clueless

Emma has been given a millenial pink makeover (Picture: Splash)

The success of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women has shown that there is a thirst for adaptations of classic novels, even if they’ve been done before (which they all have).

So it’s no surprise that 16 years after Gwyneth Paltrow took on the role of Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen’s classic comedy is getting another run at the big screen in Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. That’s Emma. with a full stop, by the way.

This time, it’s Anya Taylor-Joy who steps into Emma’s shoes. For those who don’t know Austen’s tale, Emma Woodhouse is a slightly spoiled 20-year-old who takes a liking to matchmaking. She takes a young friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) under her wing, and disapproves when she is proposed to by a farmer.

Instead, Emma tries to set up Harriet with the local vicar Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor) while she looks forward to a meeting herself with the handsome and mysterious Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) – much to the annoyance of in-law and neighbour George Knightley (Johnny Flynn).

Crossed wires ensue against the backdrop of stately homes as Emma comes to realise that maybe she doesn’t know best.

What’s so lovely about Emma. is that not all that much happens, making this movie quite a leisurely ride. Much like the ball scene, the film sort of sways along, lulling you into a warm, romantic mood with its beautiful scenery and lack of conflict.

Director Autumn de Wilde is best known as a photographer and director for musicians, including The Raconteurs and The Flaming Lips, and it’s clear by the aesthetics that this is what she does. Emma. gets a sort of Wes Anderson makeover – all pastels and millenial pinks, like Austen was transferred into a venue built for Instagram.

And it suits the story, with the quaint dialogue slotting in perfectly with its gorgeous surroundings.

The cast will also appeal to a more modern audience. I found myself distracted with the addition of two Sex Education stars – the deadpan Connor Swindells, or Adam Groff, as farmer Robert Martin and Tanya Reynolds, who plays the alien-obsessed Lily on Sex Education and gives a brilliantly vaucous performance as the new Mrs Elton. Callum Turner is typically dashing as Churchill, although the timing of the story doesn’t give him all that much screen time – odd that he’s featured alongside Taylor-Joy and Flynn on the poster – and Johnny Flynn brings a smouldering intensity to Mr Knightley from his first semi-naked scene (Jane Austen would blush).

Flynn and Taylor-Joy have plenty of chemistry (Picture: Splash News)

Taylor-Joy is delightful as Emma, encapsulating the rather unlikeable but still endearing heroine, and she has great chemistry with Flynn as the two bickering friends that have something else going on.

Goth is charming as the naive Harriet, while Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart provide a few giggles as Mr Woodhouse and Miss Bates – however, it’s Josh O’Connor who is really playing the film for laughs, with an over-the-top incel take on Mr Elton that for the most part works quite well.

For those unfamiliar with Austen, this bright and unpretentious adaptation full of beautiful people and simmering-but-still-chaste sexual tension could be the way in.

Unfortunately, throughout the two hour long film, I found myself comparing Emma. to the one perfect version of the book. No, not Gwyneth’s 1996 take.

Emma reached absolute perfection in 1995 with Clueless, and trying to improve on the teen classic seems fruitless. As much as I liked Taylor-Joy as Emma, I was just spurred on to watch Alicia Silverstone’s Cher matchmaking her teachers and trying to set up Tai and Elton to no avail. While Clueless may be a loose interpretation of Austen’s novel, it’s true enough that most of the moves in Eleanor Catton’s script here will give you deja vu to Beverly Hills.

Emma. hits cinemas on Valentine’s Day, and it probably a more appropriate date night film than previous V-Day releases like Fifty Shades Of Grey. The adaptation may not have been 100% necessary, but it’s enjoyable enough to just surrender to the romance and bathe in its beauty.

Emma. is in cinemas on 14 February. 

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