Does your heart pitter-patter when Gwyenth Paltrow’s Emma Woodhouse makes clipped, eloquent cooings with Mr. Knightley?
Do you grind your teeth in annoyance when Keira Knightley swans into a scene from Pride & Prejudice?
Do you re-watch Clueless a thousand times, comforted in the knowledge that you’re actually viewing a contemporary comedy based on Emma?
There are scores of Austen adaptations, and tonight, we get another one: Masterpiece Theatre (‘scuse me, Masterpiece Classic — oh, sad little PBS, branding is not your forte, is it?) is offering what looks like a dandy version of Emma. Haven’t watched it yet myself (oh, parsimonious PBS, don’t you think you’d get more publicity if you sent a TV critic a copy to review?), but I’m looking forward to seeing how good or bad this one is.
Mind you, I don’t care if an adaptation is scrupulously faithful to its source. Filmmakers in both TV and the movies have to drop characters, and trim or expand plotlines, to make their projects work. No, all I ask is that a Jane Austen interpretation possess some of the mordant wit of Austen’s work, whether it’s in the adapted screenplay and/or in the actors’ performances.
The new one stars Ramola Garai (Atonement) in the title role, and Jonny Lee Miller, late of Eli Stone, as Mr. Knightley. The invaluable Michael Gambon plays Emma’s father.
Here, I’ll toss out another example to spark your thoughts: I think one of the best Austen performances ever is Emma Thompson’s in the 1995 movie of Sense and Sensibility.
But I ask you: What’s your favorite movie or TV version of a Jane Austen book?
Please do me the kind favor of a response, dear readers. I thank you.
(Do you think Jane Austen would have used Twitter? Anyway, follow me on the damn thing: @kentucker )