Tuesday, September 16, 2008
A Tale of Two Emmas
Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma
Kate Beckinsale, Emma
Last night I watched Emma with my mother and sisters. Rachel Portman (Chocolat) did the delicious score, and Jeremy Northam is a most exquisite Mr. Knightley. Gwyneth Paltrow is a terrible actress most of the time, and with her dreadful faux-British accent, this film is no exception. A pretty girl who wears pretty dresses and that is all. One of the least worthwhile casting decisions of all time, Ewan McGregor plays Frank Churchill in a sort of Leprechan incarnation of the character. While I've always considered Ewan McGregor to be one of the handsomest actors of our era, his stiff, bushy, shoulder-length red-orange wig ruins what is naturally a beautiful facade. I know he's a good actor, and doesn't need to rely on his appearance to sell the story, but let's be honest - an unintentionally ugly Ewan McGregor is almost as sinful as casting Ralph Fiennes as the "faceless" Voldemort!
A&E's version stars Kate Beckinsale. This adaptation, as is typical of A&E, is historically accurate: the costumes are not costumes, simply era-appropriate clothes. Kate Beckinsale is a much more believable Emma. She doesn't look like a 30-year old model (Gwyneth has always looked old), but like a young, spoiled, rambunctious lady with all the natural self-importance expected of such a person. Her Mr. Knigthely, played by a feller named Mark Strong (whom I've seen in nothing before or since) is appropriately older, appropriately grumpier than is the Northam Knightley. Less handsome, less debonair, but thus he becomes more realistic. This Mr. Knightley is rather short tempered. He and Emma bicker as brother and sister (Paltrow/Northam had far too much chemistry as lovers - it was always so obvious that each liked the other), genuinely shouting at one another and storming apart. Emma is the beautiful, frustrating young friend, and Mr. Knightley is the much older, much disappointed would-be lover.
Final call: Neither version is perfect. Both have their flaws, both have their successes. At the end of the day, however, Gwyneth Paltrow ruins the big-screen version. She's a terrible actress.
Posted by V^e at 9:10 AM