Emma tv movie from 1996 with Kate Beckinsale
Emma (also from) 1996 with Gwyneth Paltrow
Emma (2009) miniseries with Romola Garai
Well, to be be short and sweet (the way I am ;D) I thought the 2009 Emma mini series with Romola Garai was clearly the best. First of all it's in 4 parts, each episode an hour long, so we get the chance to explore the complicated relationships and personality traits of every character, this is what it's all about for me.
I really just thought the tv/movie versions from 1996 were too shortened, it didn't capture the essence of Emma, wich the 2009 series succeeded with.
Kate Beckinsale was just a sourpuss. She didn't convey the lightness and charm that Jane Austens beloved character has. And it is Emmas charm that makes us like her, otherwise she would just be a snob and not likeable at all. I expected more from Kate who is actually one of my favorite actresses normally.
Gwyneth Paltrow was a better Emma than Kate. BUT it wasn't quite enough. I don't know wether to blame the time constraint of only 1h50min, thereby shortening the whole story to the extreme, or to blame Gwyneth? In all fairness, she was a perfectly good Emma, but having seen the 2009 version first, I can't be other than critical. Quite a bit more charm than Kate, but not quite enough for me.
Romola Garai IS Emma! She was absolutely brilliant! She completely conveyed the charm, the actual innocence and youthful vanity of Emma, and also this sence of superiority, without it being obnoxious in any way. Her complete ability to just banter with Mr Knightly (Jonny Lee Miller) while doing her daily chores was so perfect and even though she is quite a shallow character in the beginning, one never really dislikes her. With Romola, we get it, we get Emma and we get Emma right.
But what about the men?
Well, this is always a hard question, Mr Knightley is a very important character. He is Emmas friend, her confidante, he teases her and tells her off when he thinks she's behaved badly. He makes her see her own weaknesses, but he never thinks of them as weaknesses himself.
Mark Strong is a good actor. That being said, I don't think he physically looks the part. He looks a little too old for her and he didn't have any chemistry at all with Kate. It was just a bad match I guess.
Jeremy Northam looks a little more like I pictured Mr Knightey. But I'm missing the passionate arguments between him and Gwyneth (Emma). He was okay, but not ultimate. Needless to say this is the sweetest looking couple of all the Emma adaptation, they totally look like a couple.
Jonny Lee Miller was amazing. Granted, he wasn't exactly how I imagined Mr Knightey, a bit short compared to Emma (Romola) and a little too "bright" and cheerful. I imagine Mr Knightley when I read the book as a much darker man, and not nearly so sheepish. BUT, with his ability to scold his counterpart like there's no tomorrow he wins you over in the end. I suspect that the warmth he added to the character also makes one more likey to like him and see him as someone you would want to cozy up to one day for the rest of your life...
But if I got to choose. If I would cast anyone as Mr Knightley, I most definitely would cast:
(played Mr Thornton on North and South, absolutely gorgeous)