Autumn de Wilde’s directorial debut, her crisp and ornately beautiful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma., was destined to hit theaters in March 20, 2020, and everyone knows what happened next.
Due to the swiftly descending COVID-19 pandemic, Emma. went directly to video on demand, depriving viewers of a truly sumptuous big screen depiction of matchmaking among the landed gentry of early 19th century England.
Now, as part of Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s annual Oscar warm up series, Emma. can be seen in all its glory at 3 p.m. Sunday at the OKCMOA, 415 Couch Drive. Tickets are $10 for adults with discounts for children, seniors, museum members, veterans and other groups.
Music and filmby George Lang
Sponsored by True Sky Credit Union
While not as frequently adapted as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, two of Austen’s most popular works, 1815’s Emma gained its greatest popularity in the past quarter-century. In 1995 and 1996, audiences saw Alicia Silverstone play Cher Horowitz in a modernized version of Emma, then Gwyneth Paltrow played the clever matchmaker in a more proper adaptation.
But the 1996 Paltrow version pales compared to de Wilde’s take. Emma. stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy sophisticate living with her eccentric father (Bill Nighy) in Highbury, Surrey. After the marriage of her former governess, Mrs. Taylor (Gemma Whelan) to Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves of Sherlock), a marriage for which she takes credit, Emma feels confident that she can be Highbury’s most successful matchmaker.
Emma takes on young Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) as a companion and a marriage project, and when she learns that tenant farmer Robert Martin (Connor Swindells) has proposed to Harriet, Emma does her level best to scuttle the marriage and put her imprimatur on another potential suitor, local vicar Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor). She engages in this chicanery against the advice of her lifelong friend, George Knightley (Johnny Flynn).
What transpires is the stuff of great screwball comedy, as Emma’s sharp tongue, capacity for meddling and deep affection for George throw multiple spanners in the works. The question in all the stirred-up drama is whether the increasingly vexed matchmaker can actually achieve her best match for herself.
Readers of Austen’s works know that her novels do not read like 200-year-old works — her narratives are clear and modern and she created characters of exceptional dimension. In de Wilde’s adaptation, those characters are portrayed with great enthusiasm by the cast, especially Taylor-Joy, who first came to prominence with her performance in Robert Eggers’ 2015 film The VVitch but found her greatest acclaim in last year’s miniseries The Queen’s Gambit.
Taylor-Joy’s characters, like Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, are often keen observers, a trait best illustrated by the actress’ enormous and expressive eyes, but Emma Woodhouse is a talker. It gives Taylor-Joy a chance to light up the screen (and speakers) with Emma’s pithy arguments. In Emma., she never misses a chance to give her character another edge.
Emma. is nominated for Academy Awards in Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, but its is a shame that de Wilde did not get a Best Director nod and Taylor-Joy received no mentions in the acting categories. As her performances suggested in Queen’s Gambit, her time will come, and Emma. proves that de Wilde, a still photographer up to this point, is a master at shooting 24 frames per minute.
Both as a solo performer and as leader of J + The Bishops, Jose Hernandez is one of the most gifted singer-songwriters working in Oklahoma City. Hernandez will perform a solo set at 5:30 p.m. Friday at The Jones Assembly, 901 W. Sheridan Ave. Admission is free, though attendees are asked to register through thejonesassembly.com to maintain social distancing.
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Last Updated April 8, 2021, 10:46 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor