Emma.

Listen to this episode

S1: Right now.

S2: Charlotte in great. Hi.

S3: What’s in the box?

S2: Know. Yo, yo, yo.

S4: Hello and welcome to Slate Spoiler Specials. I’m Marisa Martinelli, an associate editor here at Slate. And today, I’m joined by staff writer Heather Sherwood l. Hi, Heather. Hi, Marissa. Today, we’re going to be spoiling Emma, the new Jane Austen adaptation from Director Autumn de Wilde. Heather, I’m so excited to talk to you about this movie. We watched this movie together, and I got to hear all your reactions in real time. And I have been itching to discuss them with you. There was a lot of laughter and gasping during our screening. Is that fair to say? Yes, I think that’s fair to say. So where do you stand on Emma? Are you a big Austen fan? Have you read the book, Emma? Have you seen other adaptations?

S5: I read the book, Emma in college or high school. So it’s been awhile. And I actually had not seen the major.

S6: I think of it as the most major adaptation, the 1996 one with Gwyneth Paltrow. But I have seen Clueless. Clueless has been like an enduring obsession in my life. So I would say, like my biggest familiarity with Emma comes through that I pulled up the trailer for the 1996 Emma just because I wanted to get kind of its vibe. And I thought about watching it. And then I was like, no, you know, let me just keep this most recent. Emma in my head. What about you?

S4: It’s funny because I feel about Emma the way I know you feel about little women, where the 90s version is the definitive version for me. I had a professor in college who loathed the 90s version because Gwyneth Paltrow’s accent falls a little short.

S7: I don’t think she’s wrong necessarily, but I have such affection for that adaptation, I think. Alan Cumming is the definitive Mr Elton.

S5: He just nails the ridiculousness that is just like so insane to me. Why? Because, like, Elton is Elton from clueless. Like he’s supposed to be hot and like Alan Cumming is not like he’s supposed to be ridiculous. Ridiculous, I guess is so that Elton in this movie, I guess we’ll get there falls more towards the ridiculous. So maybe you’re right. But like from what I remember in the book, like Elton was like a little ridiculous, but there was something appealing about him. But we’ll get back to that.

S8: So this movie version of Emma is not a radical reimagining. The way, let’s say, the most recent little women is, even though there are a lot of similarities between the two and that they’ve been adapted and adapted and adapted, Clueless is obviously a pretty big departure because it’s a modernised American version. I’ve also seen the Indian rom com version, Aisha, which is along the same lines and is kind of cute. I’ve seen at least three different BBC versions. I feel like there’s Emma Approved, which is a web series from the people behind Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Right. Yeah. There are so many amma’s out there. So going into this movie a little bit, I felt like why do we need another one? Totally. And then I walked out. My loves it. I thought it was quite good as well.

S7: Heather, I’m curious if this was as it was for me or first brush with Onya. Taylor Joy, who is the lead and plays Emma, who has been in a few I think mostly horror movies up until now.

S5: I certainly had not seen her in the which which which was supposed to be really great, but you just could not pay me enough to see like a horror movie or something called The Witch. That’s supposed to be scary. But I did see her in thoroughbreds, so I knew her a little bit through that.

S9: I read an interview with her where she said that she was so insecure about the role. She was like, I’m the first ugly AMA, which is outrageous.

S10: She’s so beautiful.

S6: I think she’s very beautiful. But I also thought the casting of this movie was really interesting or that speaks to the overall project of this movie. I do think she’s beautiful in a way that I can just see her as someone I went to school with and her having this particular cult of personality around her. It’s a very particular look like there’s almost like I read there’s an iciness in her look. I just don’t think she’s the Gwyneth Paltrow sort of. Not thick when it Paltrow is like bland, but like predictable, beautiful Hollywood actress. I think there’s a little edge to her. So I do understand why it’s a little bit different, but I don’t think she should lament that she’s ugly.

S8: I think she is so fun to look at. And she’s that rare celebrity who’s both conventionally attractive and also really interesting in the face. I want to shrink down and go skiing on is.

S6: One thing I like about her and I’ll contrast this to Gwyneth Paltrow is I think she looks genuinely young. And this, Emma is supposed to be 20 year, 21 years old. And I do look at her and think like, yeah, that’s a really young woman. Still figuring it out. That’s not like a Hollywood rom com actress who’s just a more typical person you might see in like a big budget version of this type of movie.

S9: She looks young and she also acts young. She’s good at capturing the sort of bratty ness of Emma that might not play as well with a more mature actress. So that worked really well. I mean, the movie even opens with the famous first line of Emma, the quotation about her being 21 years old.

S10: Almost certainly. Yeah. And this version, they’re like pretty explicitly like she’s not quite 20. Now, that’s funny. She’s handsome.

S9: She’s clever. She’s rich. She’s lived with very little. To distress or vex her is a good start, I would say, especially since this movie opens with the very first thing to distress or vex her, which is the departure of her governess, Miss Taylor. And I found in rereading the book that the book sort of breezes past that in like two sentences and picks up after Miss Taylor’s already married. So I was curious to me that they chose to actually show her preparing for the wedding. She gets a scene where the two of them get to basically say goodbye. And then we actually attend the wedding of Miss Taylor and Mr Weston. And the church that they’ve constructed is so cute and really emphasizes the smallness of the village because it’s, you know, the kind of village where there are three or four people. And we go into this church and there are in fact, like 20 people in the pews. And it’s really, really small and everyone knows each other. The first pew is reserved for a man, Mr Woodhouse, to emphasize their importance. So who do we meet in the church?

S6: We meet the faith’s lady who’s in the church. So Miss Bates is like this kind of like town busybody played by Amanda Hart. Yes. Who I love. From Spy and Child the midwife. It’s funny. She’s a very tall man. And I was just reading an interview with Autumn Wilde where she was like, I’m tall, too. And so she felt this sort of affinity with that character. And like tall lady problems.

S9: I thought that was a really interesting take on it because possibly also because of the 90s version of Emma, I always picture Miss Bates as being diminutive and sort of this like chittering, scattered person and to have her be tall and more physically imposing. It was just like a radical re-imagining, just in casting purely. And Mirren her is so funny and plays it so sympathetically where she’s all over the place and there is an element of ridiculousness to her. But I found her to be just sort of a chatterbox, but in a nice way.

S5: Yeah, totally lovable in that way.

S4: I think the movie is even less sympathetic to Emma than past adaptations. It’s very much like reading the novel where you feel, you know, putting her then Emma and you’re like, Emma, don’t don’t be judgmental. Don’t say an unkind thing. I really like Thomas Bates from the get go. I don’t know if that’s a weakness or a strength, though. Yeah, I’m not sure. Well, the other person we meet in the church is Mr Elton. For me again, Alan Cumming as the only. Mr Elton, talk to me about this. Mr Elton, can I be won over?

S5: I just think he was so goofy in this role. The way I think of Elton is someone that Emma thinks is a good match for her friend. I mean, he’s not amazing because she doesn’t want him for herself, but like, they’re supposed to be attractive elements of him. And I just thought this out. And I was like, why? Why would she set her friend up with him?

S4: He is so slimy from the get-go that, again, it’s a little bit like, come on, Emma, get a grip. Because when he’s being ridiculous and charming or at least trying to be charming, you can kind of excuse all of his extravagance and social climbing tendencies. But when he’s so transparently pretentious.

S5: Yeah, and they’re supposed to be friends, too, because the moment in that carriage is supposed to be a bit of a revelation.

S6: So he gets slimy and we hate him later. But that’s supposed to be more of a reveal, right?

S4: Yeah. I thought when he’s delivering his sermon. There’s a great moment where he says the word innocence. But he says it’s innocent son. And Mr. Woodhouse, who is played amazingly by Bill Nye in this version, says Innocence. Innocence.

S6: I just saw a vulture headline about that particular pronunciation. So he offered his commentary on it.

S4: It was his take, right? That was his line rating. Yes.

S10: You know, a good magician for the limited amount of time that he had to introduce the character. That was a that did it.

S9: So notably absent from the church during this wedding is Frank Churchill, who is Mr Weston’s son, who is skipping his father’s wedding because he lives with his aunt and uncle. And his aunt is very sick or is implied. She’s not actually very sick. She’s just a hypochondriac, much like Emma’s father is, Mr. Woodhouse.

S6: This is the first of the sort of complicated familial relationships that you have to keep in mind, because Frank Churchill was Mr. Weston’s son from his first marriage and then his wife passed away. So he went to live with the wife’s family and took the name Churchill. And then at that point, Mr. Weston married Emma’s former governess. Right. Sometime later. Yes. The parallel in Clueless is with Christian. One reason to enjoy watching this production is it can remind you how good clueless is. And then you can also just watch that again. But like, the way it set up in Clueless is, you know. Oh, Christian’s not here this semester. He lived with one of his other parents on a different coast. So like this absentee character is introduced. And that’s sort of what the deal is with Frank, like we’re hearing about him before and knowing like, oh, who’s this guy going to be before we meet him?

S8: And the unspoken expectation among people who live in the villages that he would be a good match for Emma, who is pretty starved for choice, considering how small the community is, but also the fact that her family is basically above everyone else. So she doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to marrying. Always a hard situation for an Austin heroine. My frank church is Ewan McGregor.

S4: Oh, yeah. I’ve noticed in the trailers like that, even Gregor, he plays it so well. He plays the character as written as this kind of sniveling fop with long hair. He’s very vain. He goes, travels miles and miles, get his haircut. He sings really dramatically. It’s kind of odd to see Ewan McGregor in that role because you don’t usually see him playing period drama and comedy in that particular mix. Those are big shoes to fill. I thought Callum Turner was much like Mr Elton. This Frank Churchill was clearly bad news from the get go.

S5: Yes, but in a different way to me. I thought like, oh, this guy, he’s like a jock. He’s a player. Like to the extent that, like a 19th century guy can be that. But he sort of just has that look of like cockiness and overconfidence.

S6: I wasn’t particularly into him at any point, but Mr Knightley calls him a FOP. And in this version of the movie and make some comment about him going to London to get his haircut, that makes it clear he’s like, oh, this guy’s just a hairdo.

S10: This movie has reversed the hairdos in a way that really nine know where the long hair is, the signal of the FOP and the short cropped style that Jeremy NORTHAM has. It’s like he’s a gentleman naturally falls that way.

S6: Emma has an older sister, Isabella Isabelle, and she is married to Knightley’s younger brother. So Knightley is someone she grew up with, sort of like a family friend, like much older than her. Her sister’s husband’s older brother.

S4: Yeah. So a very important question. Is he hot? Is nightly hot in this movie?

S5: So I actually think they make him too handsome and too obvious a choice for Emma. There is supposed to be some creepiness there where he’s known her since she was a baby. And they’re kind of in the same family which has again, at brilliant and clever parallel in Clueless because Josh is Cher’s step brother. So it’s like creepy but also perfect. But then in this one, I’m just like, oh, why doesn’t she just date him? He’s right there. I was thinking like in a post Game of Thrones where, like, they’re both blonde. They do kind of look like family. There’s like somewhat of an undercurrent of incestuous ness still there. I was surprised when I look.

S4: The actor Johnny Flynn to find that he’s actually the right age for the character 36, which is just a little bit younger than the thirty seven thirty eight.

S5: I also think 37 today is different than 37 in 1815.

S10: Definitely that’s true. He has a very pouty lips.

S4: Oh yeah. That make him look younger than he is or maybe younger is not even the right word. He just is more hunky. He’s hunky in a way that I could not square with the character who I’ve always seen as more of like a stuck up paternal kind of figure rather than. Yes, his version, which is less creepy, although he’s is more of like a brotherly figure. Huh? I don’t want to say by virtue of being a brother. The romances has negated all creepiness, but you don’t feel their ages quite as much.

S5: Right. I think he’s supposed to be a bit like dorky again. I’m thinking of joshing, clueless. Like he’s not supposed to be this brute. He is so like an Austin hero. The actor they cast in this one. Like there’s nothing like unlikely about it.

S4: He’s definitely more in the vein of the movie and TV Austin Heroes, where they’re soaking wet. They’re sweating a lot and their chests are heaving. I mean, in this movie, he’s fully naked.

S10: Oh, yes. The first time we see him again, we see a hole, but. Yeah, Clueless Alert. It’s like you just talked about it. I kind of would. I just want to point out the perfect ness of that, because when Cher says she’s butt crazy in love with Josh, it’s like callback to the butt. Do you think that was a really subtle Omar? Sugarless maybe? I don’t know. I did control find on a copy of Emma and find the word, but it’s not yours.

S5: Yeah, I do think that was maybe an invention of the directors to talk about that choice more. There’s a lot of like body stuff in this movie.

S10: It’s really a horny movie. Horny.

S5: But also just like gross body stuff for not gross, but just kind of like the everyday private I’m thinking of. When they have Emma’s sisters, baby and he farts, everyone freaks out or he or she. I don’t know what the baby was. The point of seeing Knightley’s. But it isn’t for us to be horny about it. Or maybe a little. Oh, but like it’s more just like, oh, we never see the private moments of these people and sort of making them a little more human.

S7: It is a really bold and visually movie in a way that the nudity works with. The colors are really bright and exciting. It’s lush and sumptuous and indulgent.

S4: And so when even later in the movie, Emma lifts her skirt to sort of roast her butt on fire. It does feel like earthy enough that it can support that. And it’s not something you’re used to seeing in a period drama, a Regency period drama, with the exception of maybe like Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette, which is explicitly has anachronisms.

S5: Yeah. Marie-Antoinette is definitely one of the movies that’s like a reference point for this. It’s a little less totally indulgent seeming, but there’s definitely an aspect of that in that production design on the subject of the costuming and of the extent to which this departs from or is faithful to the time period.

S8: I was actually reading because I’m not a fashion historian, but alas, as I sit here in my corset in the studio, I follow someone called Hilary Davidson.

S7: She’s the author of Dress in the Age of Jane Austen Regency Fashion. And I was reading her interpretation of the movie’s costumes because, oh, awesome. To me, the bold colors were jarring. Like I couldn’t explain why I don’t know anything about the fashion of the era, but I know Hollywood.

S9: And very often in these movies, you get a lot of pastels, blues, pinks, whites. And in this version of other simple reds, Harriet, who’s played by MIA Goth and is a sort of kind of schoolgirl border in town, she and her other classmates wear these red hoods that almost make them look like they’re in the hem hit still.

S5: Yes. And they walk around like in a line. And it reminds you of like Madeline. I didn’t know what to make of the dresses, but I did think that the hair and jewelry had some wit to them. Like some of the hair in this movie is crazy. Like, there’s one part where Emma’s wearing like a Christmas. Tournament looking thing in her hair. And then later, when we me, Mrs. Outen, her hair looks like she is like Cindy Lou. Who in Whoville. Oh, hey, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

S4: Well, in reading what these fashion bloggers have to say, a lot of that stuff is actually accurate. Oh, I read so amaz bold yellow coat that I thought was more of a stylistic choice. Rich people would often wear bold colors to indicating that they had money. The ringlets, the really tight ringlets and wearing red curls. The ringlets look like they’re literally curled around a pencil. They do. They look like you should like pull it down and it will spring you right back up. The costumes are by ALEXANDRA Byrne, who has done awesome costuming before she went on persuasion and found this other costume blog from the curator at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington. And one thing that he pointed out was that Mrs. Elton’s hair, the styles from the 1830s, whereas the rest of the costumes are more than 18 10s and 1820s. So she looks eccentric because she’s fashion forward, which is an interesting choice because this is Allison’s styles herself as that kind of person who thinks that she’s fashion forward. But in this case, it’s true.

S5: Clueless. Hi. The reference here would be Amber in Clueless. Do you prefer a fashion victim wear on? So. I thought Emma’s hair even looked ridiculous at points like I think some of it is just supposed to be arch and just like look at these rich people. They don’t even know how to wear their hair.

S8: I appreciate the attention to detail that I didn’t know enough to recognize when I was actually watching to get back to the jewelry.

S5: Some of that was just very different looking. Emma had these earrings. It looked like plastic wishbones to me, which they definitely weren’t. But a lot of the jewelry was also very colorful. And it’s just cool to like learn like, oh, they have stuff like that then. So, Harriette, things kick off when Harriet kind of arrives on the scene and Emma sees in her like, oh, I can mentor this young woman and I will make a match for her and introduce her into society. It’s like the height of Emma’s self-regard, thinking, I’m going to mold this young woman because Harriet is very naive. I thought the actress who played her me andoff was great in the role, just so young and wide eyed and Gigli.

S6: So plot wise, what happens is soon after Emma and Harriet begin their friendship, we learn that Harriet has a proposal of a local farmer asked for her hand in marriage, and Emma kind of thinks she could do better. Like she doesn’t approve of this. She doesn’t think he’s of a high enough class for Harriet. So that’s when Emma sort of sets her sights on like, oh, I think Mr. Elton would be a good match for Harriet. And sort of engineers times when Harriet can hang out with Mr. Outten, then it gets very confusing because Emma paints a picture of Harriet and gives it to Mr. alten, who loves it. But like, he loves it because Emma painted it, not because it’s Harriet we learn later.

S7: Yeah, Harriet is interesting as a character because it’s almost like Schrödinger’s class. We don’t know whether she’s low born or highborn. So it’s like both possibilities exist simultaneously. And Emma has chosen to believe that she’s the daughter of a gentleman. She doesn’t know who her father is. Emma doesn’t know who her father is. She’s being put up at this boarding school by an unknown benefactor. So, Emma, who’s staff for company, especially now that Miss Taylor has left, adopts her without actually knowing whether she’s too good to marry a farmer. She’s just sort of imbued this importance. And Harriet, by virtue of this is my friend. Therefore, she must be above a farmer.

S6: My memory was a little fuzzy on that. And I feel like maybe it’s hard to pick up exactly what’s happening in the book, like vis-a-vis her parentage. But yeah, that’s a good explanation of it.

S4: One thing I thought that if you’re gonna be a clue is I get to bring up the 1996 version of Emma. Yes, you do.

S7: Not that movie did a better job of showing the extent to which Emma actually sabotages the relationship because in this movie it’s largely passive aggressive, hence based purely on his class standing. And the 90s version really gets into like, oh, he didn’t read that book you told him to read and I couldn’t possibly comment. There are other factors outside of it. This Emma. Is a total snob, I love that about her.

S10: She is so. It’s great.

S4: And it really sets up the end of this movie where she’s humbled to an extent that Jane Austen didn’t even dare to dream of yet.

S5: For me, it’s more about the journey and it really is so humorous and perfect that like.

S6: She thinks she knows it all and who people should marry, and she is sort of the puppet master when she has no idea what’s going on all along. The only person to sort of question Emma is Mr. Knightley. Mr. Martin is a tenon on Mr. Knightley’s farm, and he knows him and he thinks, you know, Harry, it would be lucky to have him. He’s a good man. Like, why are you meddling in all this? And Emma’s like her. Um.

S11: Yeah.

S8: Knightley is definitely more of the people in his rugged way in this movie as opposed to past versions where his reasoning has been more like, we don’t know who this girl is.

S10: We should probably let her accept a marriage proposal since she has nothing. Right.

S7: Harriet was interesting in this movie. She was so meek that it was easy to see how she could be shaped rather than just being purely dimwitted. It was less about brains and more about a lack of courage, which I prefer.

S5: I think that makes the character work better to go back to their youth. I just think the dynamic between them is very believable. You know, like twelfth grader leading a ninth grader around and acting like she knows everything.

S4: Yeah. One thing I did miss this movie is more explicitly leaning into the matchmaking aspect because we lost a great exchange early in the movie where. Emma says that she made the match between Mrs Weston and Mr Weston and her father sort of alludes to the fact that she didn’t really make them out. She foretold the match. But Knightley doesn’t challenge her as strongly as he does in the book and in past adaptations. And that to me is sort of the core of an EMMA adaptation. So to leave it a subtext here was an interesting choice.

S5: Yeah, I think you’re right. You mentioned her father, though. What did you think of Bill Nighy in this role? He’s very funny.

S4: I mean, he had me it’s Essence Church. I like when he’s first on screen. He, like, bounds down a set of stairs. So he’s not lethargic and moping around. He has a lot of energy. I love his weird kind of crab walk, crouching where he’s searching for the draft because he’s convinced that everyone’s going to catch cold and die.

S9: The servants in this movie have a very good rapport with him, where basically there’s an army of servants in every scene. Largely stoic. I don’t think any of them have a single speaking line and they just react to the action. And so there’s a scene early on where he’s convinced that Mr Knightley is going to get a draft and he deploys this small army of servants to rearrange all of the fireplace screens that he has to redirect the energy. I think you play it really well. I have not seen I think Mr Woodhouse like that before, which is refreshing.

S5: Yeah. I love Bill Nighy. And when I saw he was in this, I was like, hell, yeah, that’s gonna be great. But I don’t think he really had anything to do.

S4: Like, I kind of forget that he was there, but that’s kind of his role, right? Emma doesn’t want to leave him because what will he do without her?

S5: But I don’t think we even get to see enough of their relationship of him being needy. I just thought that, like, he would lift right out of this movie and you wouldn’t notice. That’s fair.

S4: I could have used a a scene or two of the two of them together just getting to know the dynamics of the house a little more. But I do think even when he’s saying what a terrible day it is and she sort of consoling him, they gesture at it enough that it works. Their core relationships of this movie are Emma and Harriet and then Emma and Knightley. But his relationship with Mr Knightley is touching to where they clearly have their own bond going on. That makes you root for the Emma and Mr Knightley down the line. It’s not so much that Mr Woodhouse would lift out as that Mr Knightley can be plopped right in. OK, so as you mentioned, Emma has been trying to push together Harriet and Mr Elton, and everyone has been wildly misinterpreting his signals. His enthusiasm for the painting that Emma paints of Harriet is very clearly directed at Emma rather than Harriet herself. And he buys that silly musical frame.

S5: And the frame is so funny and like a dead representative detail of this movie style, I would say.

S4: And then finally, Emma realises that she is wrong all along when the two are sharing a carriage after a dinner party at the Westerns where it’s like as soon as it starts to snow, everyone freaks out and they’re like, we have to get out of here. Now, if there’s a bustle. And she winds up alone in a carriage with Mr Elton, which seems super inappropriate to begin with.

S5: Oh, was that inappropriate them? I don’t know what the rules of carriages were.

S4: I don’t either. I mean, presumably it’s fines and wound up happening.

S5: But yeah, I mean, but he does use it as an occasion to sidle up to her.

S4: He declares his feelings. Huh? It’s such a claustrophobic scene. You feel very much like there’s nowhere to go. She’s stuck in the carriage with this guy. He won’t stop going on. But it does take her a minute to understand what’s happening. She’s like, you forget yourself. It’s Harriet you’re interested in. He’s like, nah, that’s not true.

S5: And this is done so well in Clueless when Elton drives Cher home from the Val party and he’s like, What? Me and tie and. Yeah. From there. Then Elton goes off and he finds a different wife.

S4: Agusta Elton. I don’t remember her maiden name, who calls him Mr E and Carris Bozo reading a plot summary of the book.

S5: It filled me and more that like actually one big thing he was interested in Emma for was her. My niece. Oh yeah. Which I kind of forgot. Or there’s less emphasis in this version of the movie. But then he finds this replacement misses out in and like she has some money, but not quite as much as Emma. But like that’s what he’s looking for.

S4: I thought the movie communicated that well because he said. The exact same thing twice among company about the estate that Frank Churchill will eventually inherit because there is a portrait of it on the wall at the Weston’s home. It’s the exact same can line about the size of the estate and how Frank Churchill is going to inherit it. And I think he actually later makes a blunder like, oh, you’re going to inherit that big estate. Not too soon. Ha ha. Because that means your uncle’s dead. Why? He’s just really oblivious to social niceties and his eagerness to talk about money.

S5: Yeah. Misses out in this sort of his perfect match. Like she is just this like loopy woman who thinks that she’s the most important person in the world.

S10: But are they a perfect match? Or is he kind of key, miserable?

S5: Oh, I don’t know. That’s a good point. The novel is certainly not from his perspective.

S4: It’s not. I think it’s clearer in other versions. I mean, they explicitly say he chose worse for himself than Emma would have chosen for him. Knightley says that, and since he’s the voice of reason in many of these cases, we can trust him. But in this version, especially later after the Box Hill picnic, when Emma speaks out of turn, they did seem to have a nice kind of closeness where Mrs Elton says, I know when to keep my mouth shut. Mr Elton’s like, yeah, honey, not a direct quote from the movie.

S10: We have gone this long without talking about a pretty important character. Jane Fairfax Oh, yes, yes, yes.

S5: To get back to casting, I thought she just had more of the traditional like Hollywood beauty. That character was a little like blah to me, but I guess she’s supposed to be like Emma’s sort of rival.

S4: I was curious about the thought process behind this character because Jane Fairfax to Emma, she resents her because she’s basically her only equal in the community, even though she’s not living in a community full time. Her family’s fallen on difficult times, so she has to work.

S11: But she’s beautiful. She’s talented at the piano. She’s very musical. This movie did not sell me on the idea that Emma has any reason to dislike her. She seems like a pretty normal lady who just happens to be better at playing the piano. Whereas in the 90s version, Jane Fairfax is kind of a bitch.

S9: Like she’s really evasive and cold and not snooty necessarily, but there’s definitely a distance that she has created that Emma can’t get past. Whereas in this version I was kind of like, so what? I was just super jealous.

S5: Yeah. Emma is jealous like that. It’s coming out more and more that like Emma’s not as mature and perfect as she thinks she is. So Jane Fairfax is Miss Bates’s.

S6: She’s in town. But also Frank Churchill has come to town by this point and they’re all kind of circling each other. And Emma doesn’t want Frank to consider Jane sort of a prospect. And like, she’s very happy when Frank sort of like makes fun of Jane and she feels like that threat is neutralized. But at the same time, there’s all this gossip in town that someone gave Jane a piano there. Little women, parallel mystery, piano gift, a floating piano.

S10: Yeah.

S6: There’s some other guy who they think the piano could be from.

S4: So Jane was with the Campbells. So Frank Churchill is literally whispering in Emma’s ear that maybe the piano was a gift from Mr Campbell, who secretly in love with Jane. And we know that he is a cad because we read the book and you know, the other adaptations, but also because I like it’s super obvious that he’s on the piano. It’s not really subtle in that way. The mystery of it doesn’t really work.

S5: I didn’t feel that it was obvious, but I did feel that that whole storyline was kind of convoluted and hard to understand. So we end up finding out that, yes, he did send her at the piano and they had been secretly engaged and he was like flirting with Emma as a way to keep it even more of a secret because his aunt couldn’t find out he was in Gaige to Jane because Jane was poor. So they had to keep him. He wouldn’t inherit, right? Yep. I was just like, why was he being such a jerk? And like leading Emma on and also like prompting Emma to be like the worst version of herself.

S4: Mr Knightley would agree with you.

S7: I mean, he basically says at multiple points during the movie. Like B.M. and Frank. He should have told his and I’m going to my father’s wedding, I have to go.

S5: Oh, yeah. His whole reason for not liking him is because he didn’t even go to his.

S4: Well, he should also have stood up for the woman that he cares about rather than keeping her on the hook. Obviously, he resents him for flirting with Emma. So you and Mr. Knightley are of the same mind. You’re right about the convoluted ness of the plot. Because it’s like Mr. Martin loves Harriet. Emma convinces Harriet. She doesn’t love Mr. Martin, but she does love Mr. Elton, who loves Emma, who flirts with Frank, who’s secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax, who Emma thinks has a flirtation going on with Mr. Knightley. Yes. It’s all like this stack of dumped. And then Harriet finds love again. And Emma thinks it’s Frank Churchill that she was. So what happens with Harriet? Harriet is attacked by the gypsies, which, as plot points go, is just really super lazy. It was like, OK, here we come. I’m carrying her and dramatically interrupting a tender moment between Knightley and Emma. I feel like Mrs Elton calling him nightly without the mister in front.

S10: It’s low. Yeah, a little impudent a bit. He rushes it. He’s like she was attacked by the gypsies and everyone’s like, Oh no, that’s a normal thing that happens. And Harriet is just like screaming. But like kind of orgasmic glee. It was high comedy.

S11: And I agree about the sexual nature of it because I mean, it’s the way he’s touching her. It’s definitely suggestive. We’ve just come off a ball scene where everyone is touching each other because they’re dancing. And then Mr Knightley has just run for reasons that are unclear to me from Dodwell. He gets back to his home after the ball and like collapses sexually in the middle of a room.

S5: He does that because like he was just like so sexually frustrated because he like, exchange these glances with Emma and like the two of them, like something was going to happen.

S10: A touch, too. There was there was hand touching. Yeah. And maybe waist touching. Yeah. I do like that. He goes home and just collapses and a servant walks in and then immediately walks out.

S5: But you could misinterpret it. I guess if you didn’t know what happens. Like he also dances with Harriet at the ball, but he only does that because she’s sitting alone and Mr. Outten snaps her and then he just like very kindly offers to dance with her.

S4: And this is the source of the confusion about who she’s in love with. He has. She tells Emma that how could she not be in love with him after he rescued her? So Emma thinks it must be Frank Churchill who saved her from the gypsies. And then it turns out it was actually Mr Knightley who rescued her from not having a dance partner after Mr alten was so openly rude to her at the ball.

S5: Yeah, and it’s begin to dawn on Emma that maybe she has feelings for Mr Knightley. I don’t know at what point she actually admits it to herself, but like after the glances and the touching.

S4: This all culminates with one of the most painfully awkward scenes in all of Jane Austen. A picnic at Box Hill where Frank Churchill does this really horrible thing where he’s like, Emma’s making me say, let’s play a game because she’s bored. Emma’s making me say, let’s do this, this and this.

S5: He’s kind of goading her to be a mean girl. I think it works really well, like as written by by Jane Austen. I think she knew she was doing that.

S10: Jane Austen is a real good writer. Yes.

S5: But I just love that because like, that is weird. But also, like, sometimes you’re like friends or guys you like did convince you to be meaner and you regretted it and like you say things you don’t mean. So that picnic had been set up by Mrs alten, just like kind of inviting herself over to Mr Knightley’s house.

S4: Yeah. She basically considers herself the chaperone. Scheffer a chaperone and her friends. And at this point, Jane has left the group seeming distressed. And she only told Emma she was like, I’ve got a split. And I’m just like, that’s weird.

S5: I must still thinks there might be something happening with Jane and Mr Knightley at this point.

S4: Yes, it’s very there’s a lot going on. Yeah. One thing that I didn’t think works so well were the little asides during the picnic, which worked fine on paper. And then when you see them onscreen, you’re like, everyone is right there and can clearly hear you. They decide to play a game where they can either say one fascinating thing, two pretty good things or three exceedingly dull things. And poor dear Miss Bates makes a little self-deprecating joke about, oh, well, it’s fine as long as I can say exceedingly dull things.

S10: I can come up with three of them, which is like pretty self-aware for me. Now I thought as much.

S4: Especially this version of Miss Bates, who just seems to have a lot of nervous energy rather than being necessarily like a talkative person. She just is filling the silence rather than having something to say. I don’t know. I feel bad for her. Yeah, she was a really anxious version of the character.

S5: So then Emma says, like her cutting remark, which is like, when have you ever stopped at three?

S4: That’s verbatim what she said. And the reason that I remember that is because I was waiting. It’s really elegantly phrased in the book where she’s like, Yes, ma’am, you know, but you will be limited by that. Like, it’s it’s more roundabout. And in this way, she’s so cutting and direct and it’s really awkward.

S5: What was a little weird? Maybe this is just how it played out on screen is that after that everyone’s like doo doo doo. Like when someone come in and say that someone should have like elegantly found a way to transition. But instead we’re like there for like a really painful, like minute.

S4: It’s exactly as it is in the book. And that then Ms. Miss Bates turns and has this little side conversation with Mr. Knightley where she’s like, Oh, it’s my fault. Like, I must be a really disagreeable person. Or she wouldn’t have said that. And you’re like, Emma, you bitch, like, stop. And then Mr. Westen decides to say one fascinating thing is part of the game. And it’s a compliment to Emma. And it’s just really uncomfortable. Not fast. It’s not. He says, had you spell perfection with two letters, M and A, Emma.

S10: It’s right.

S5: Graves I expected better from him and like right after she said this really mean thing, like, why? Why is she perfection?

S4: It’s definitely awkward. And then Mr. Knightley immediately gives Emma a dressing down and says, How could you do that? How could that was your way, Ashley. Yeah, badly done. And she cries knowing that they are going to be this couple at the end of the movie. It’s a weird dynamic that he’s been so much of the movie lecturing her, but it’s one the movie’s aware of.

S5: I just also like that part of Emma’s journey in that like she is growing up and realizing, you know, you shouldn’t just dunk on people for no reason.

S4: And ordinarily that’s the sort of low point for her where she then humbles herself and goes to Miss Bates and asks forgiveness. And she does that in the movie. But then there’s more humbling to be done. I was amazed at the extent to which this movie doesn’t just humble its main character, but kind of just throws over the whole British class system. Emma finds out finally that Harriet was in fact in love with Mr. Knightley, not with Frank Churchill, because news of Frank and Jane’s engagement got out. So she goes, make sure, Harry, it’s OK. And Harry, it’s like, why wouldn’t I be OK? I don’t hear about Churchill. And there’s a really good line where Emma’s like, let’s not misunderstand each other. Like, let’s both say exactly what we think is happening. I thought that scene was really good. It’s a really Tennesee. And I think to me that’s the moment when Emma knows she’s in love with Mr. Knightley.

S10: And she’s like, But no, you can’t marry Mr. Knightley like she is but crazy. She is, in fact, by crazy, too. But two hearts. Yeah.

S11: Then Mr. Knightley comes to Emma to console her. There’s just a lot of miscommunications here about feelings to basically say Frank is a cad for playing you like that. Your wound will heal. At which point she has to say I was never in love with him, much like Harriet did to her. One scene earlier. And then we get the big, beautiful declaration of love. I think Mr. Knightley has the most romantic line in a whole Jane Austen daily, which is not romantic at all, which is if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. Oh, yeah, that’s nice.

S10: Cary, my love for you is so big and pure that I cannot put it into a romantic line. It’s like a right around.

S5: Did you find these scenes romantic?

S10: No, because her nose starts out of nowhere. It’s not in the book.

S7: There’s no allusion to nosebleeds at any point in the movie.

S5: I liked it because like again, we’re talking about just like kind of bringing the characters down to earth. It’s just funny.

S11: Well, the director Autumn Day was. Said she gets nosebleeds. Oh, really? And so I didn’t read this. Yes. She gets nosebleeds regularly. And so she decided to upend this romantic moment. And it’s the moment of like your body betrayed you at the worst possible time.

S10: I got a nosebleed on a date very recently. This hit home. I didn’t notice, but I just like ran away. And I was like, this is so funny. I have a nose bleed on a day like. Just inherently comical. Life imitating art. Yeah.

S4: So Jane Austen is really coy about this scene in the book because Knightley says his piece and then Jane Austen basically says, and what it MSA just what she got.

S10: Don’t worry about it. Exactly what she was supposed to say.

S4: And of course, in a movie, you really can’t do that unless you’re going to cut away in the middle of a love scene, which this movie is not quite radical enough to do. And it’s basically like, no, I can’t marry you because of Harriet Harriet’s love with you. So she and Knightley have to hatched this plan to get Mr. Martin to propose to Harriet again. And this was the big departure from the book where Emma goes herself with a basket in hand and Martin’s farm. And it’s this man who earlier on in the movie, she said that in a really condescending way, like he’s too poor to be important to me, but he’s not poor enough for me to be giving him charity. So he’s as much above my notice as he is below it. And so here she is holding a basket. The chickens are running around, approaching this family to say, I caused you pain. Here is a peace offering.

S5: And we’d already seen her give like an apology basket to Miss Bates, too. Yeah, she’s just on an apology tour.

S4: It has one stop in the original in this version. It’s like a three stop tour because then once she talks to Mr. Martin, she meets with Harriet. And Harriet basically says, I’m engaged, Mr. Martin, and I know who my father is. And it’s not a gentleman, as Emma has been pushing all along. It’s a guy who makes clashes. He lives in Bristol. And Emma says that he would be welcome in her home. And that’s how we’re like, yeah.

S10: Class relations.

S6: So it’s really nice for their friendship. And I just found it very believable. The way things were resolved in the class stuff didn’t bother me.

S10: But now that you pointed out, you know, it’s neither simplification of I was for it to be clear, I’m not in favor of rigid class divisions. It is a little pat, I guess you would say.

S4: It’s certainly not what Austen wrote. Once Harry decides to marry Mr. Martin, basically she and Emma like leave it on good terms, but they’re really not that close anymore.

S10: Oh, that’s so sad.

S4: I didn’t realize that because Jane Fairfax was always the more suitable companion for my one thing I did like that this movie did, which is insane, is that it ends with Mr. Knightley and Emma making out on the couch while her dad is in the room.

S10: I have a question. Yeah, OK.

S5: In that scene. So we’d already seen that like her dad likes to order around his servants to, like, place these screens all around him to like help the draft. Was he doing that because he was actually cold or he was like, oh, let the kids make out?

S4: I interpreted it as he wanted to give them some privacy because he basically says, like, put that screen over there. Put that screen over there. No, that one. And the way he structures it, it’s this massive barrier between him and them. And I mean, it’s nice because part of what makes Mr. Knightley such a noble character is that he’s willing to give up his home and come live with Emma and her father because he knows that Emma can’t leave her father. Her father will never leave Hartfield. He’s too attached. She’s too afraid. And so he decides basically to make the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loves. But it is extremely funny that they have that conversation while canoodling on the couch is like five feet away and the servants even are like one.

S5: It’s also just like us small romantic moment, like a romantic moment that like kind of undercuts itself. It it’s not a big grand gesture. Yeah. Which I really like and I think is just of a piece with what this movie’s doing.

S4: It is the scene equivalent of if I loved you less, you have my fables about it. Yeah.

S7: So Heather, this movie’s title is a little unusual because it’s not just Emma, it’s Emma with a period at the end of it. As if to say this is the definitive Emma. Although the director, Autumn de Wilde, actually says the reason that it’s a period is because it’s a period piece.

S10: What the title is premised on upon. But we’re going to go with a loftier interpretation. What do you think? Is this the definitive Emma?

S5: Hmm. I mean, I do quite like this version. And, you know, I don’t need to see another Emma now. I interviewed the director and she was talking about how it wasn’t a competition. It was just like this is how she saw the movie. But there are infinite varieties of the movie possible. This was a quirky and particular to Autumn de Wilde and the choices she made. Version of Emma that I did think was faithful to the novel. But it’s just not the kind of movie that despite that period in its title, that is like, OK, backup all of you other Emma imitators. It’s just smaller and more individual. It’s just not trying to be all things to all people.

S12: Well, I hope that this will be the definitive spoiler special on the movie Emma with a period spoiler special do with a period full stop. Yes, that’s our show. Please subscribe to the Slate spoilered special podcast Feed. And if you like the show rate and review it in the Apple podcast store or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have suggestions for movies or TV shows, we should spoil you. Have any other feedback you’d like to share? Please send it to spoilers at Slate that our audio engineer is married. Jacob. Our producer is Rosemary peson for Shout Out. I’m Rose marginally. Thanks for listening.