The latest movie version of Jane Austen's “Emma” tells a story that’s familiar if you’ve read the book or perhaps are a fan of “Clueless,” Amy Heckerling’s 1995 update on the original.
In this re-telling, Anya Taylor-Joy plays the title character, Emma Woodhouse, who is handsome, clever and rich. Fancying herself a matchmatcher, Emma turns her attention to Harriet, an undistinguished young woman who Emma sees as part friend, part project.
Harriet is delighted to have received a marriage proposal from a fine young local farmer, but Emma insists she can find Harriet a better and wealthier match. Longtime family friend Mr. Knightley, played by Johnny Flynn, is appalled at Emma's meddling.
“Emma” is a first feature for filmmaker Autumn de Wilde, who has spent years behind the camera, first as a rock photographer and then as a music video and commercial director.
De Wilde had long hoped that one day she might direct a feature. She leaped at the chance when producers at the British company Working Title Pictures approached her with the idea of making yet another version of Austen's early 19th century novel.
From there, she went all-in on “Emma.” Fans of Austen’s comedy of manners will note de Wilde’s period-specific details, from the colors to fashion to hairstyles filled with tightly-curled ringlets. De Wilde even included some musical jokes in Emma’s famously not-so-pitch-perfect pianoforte performance.
De Wilde says she wasn’t intimidated by the obsessive nature of certain Austen devotees, even though they take these things seriously.
She also tells us that making “Emma” has made her fall in love with filmmaking, and while she plans to keep directing commercials and the occasional music video, she’s already on the hunt for her next feature film.