For over a month, Miss Elizabeth, Melody and I have been working on Emma Comparisons that compare Emma 1996 and 2009. Today I will unveil Part 1.
Miss Woodhouse: Gwenyth Paltrow used to be my favorite Emma. She's poised, pretty, and mischievous. Her only fault is that she seems a little too self assured. In Emma (the book), Emma is slightly immature at the beginning and then gradually matures from an unsure girl into a lovely woman
Melody: I wasn't overly impressed with Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma; she seemed too act too modern, and... just not quite my Emma (that is, Jane Austen's Emma ;) ).
Miss Elizabeth: I didn't dislike Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma, but it wasn't my favorite Emma. She got Emma's high class nature down, but at times I thought she acted too snooty for Emma.
Miss Woodhouse: Although Emma probably wouldn't have been a blonde (she has brown eyes in the book), I think Romola Garai nails Emma's character perfectly. She matures through the miniseries and the change is believable. She is my favorite Emma.
Melody: I must say I was very pleased with Romola Garai’s Emma. I wasn’t thoroughly taken at first, though. Now, if you’ve heard very many people talk about this adaptation, you will have heard this before—but she grows on you. In the first couple episodes you’re kind of unsure… but it’s supposed to be that way, and that’s the way it is with Emma’s character in the book, too. Not that she was perfect. No actor could perfectly portray a Jane Austen character, and that is just a fact. She might have over-done the facial expressions just a tad—but I really think that ‘animation’ goes with Emma’s character. She also didn’t act a little more immature than Emma really would have, but if you notice, she acts more mature by the end, which is good.
Miss Elizabeth: I really liked Romola Garai's Emma. Before watching, I thought that she would have been too old for Emma, but as I watched it, I didn't notice. Some of her body language I thought was a little modern, but the way she acted in that she seemed to genuinely care for all her neighbors and wasn't snooty.
Miss Woodhouse: Romola Garai wins but I did like Gwenyth's portrayal.
Melody: Romola Garai from 2009. Definitely. I think she had a really good feel for the character, and though I wasn’t actually convinced of this until I’d seen the miniseries several times, she is and always will be Emma to me. (P.S. The actress likes Jane Austen and has always loved the heroine Emma Woodhouse, before she ever had that part—isn’t that cool? Just had to throw that in there. Heehee.)
Miss Elizabeth: Definitely Romola Garai's Emma. Sure, Romola Garai's body language was a little modern at times, but she got Emma's "wanting to help even though it doesn't work" nature. With Gwyneth Paltrow, she would try to help, but she came off too snooty for Emma.
Miss Woodhouse: Jeremy Northam is a little too young to play Mr Knightley but I think he did a good job. However, he just wasn't quite Mr Knightley. He wasn't commanding enough...something was lacking.
Melody: Jeremy Northam was actually pretty good—or that’s what I thought after seeing Mark Strong’s portrayal in the A&E version, and before reading the book. He was technically a year or two younger than Mr. Knightley is really supposed to be, which is unusual—it’s usually the other way around.
Miss Elizabeth: I liked Jeremy Northam's Mr. Knightley. However, he did seem a little too smug at times, which wasn't how I pictured Mr. Knightley.
Miss Woodhouse: Perfect Mr Knightley! When I saw promo pics of JLM as Mr Knightley I thought "This guy doesn't look anything like Mr Knightley should". I was wrong...I was nonsensical. He captures Mr Knightley's commanding nature well and his gentleness as well.
Melody: Jonny Lee Miller ‘got it.’ His portrayal is actually the best or at least one of the best I have ever seen of any Jane Austen character. It is completely accurate to the book—watching the mini-series actually helps me to understand and appreciate Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley, which is saying a lot. (Even Colin Firth doesn’t do that for Mr. Darcy.) Of course it’s even better after you’ve read the book, too.
Miss Elizabeth: Yes! Johnny Lee Miller is Mr. Knightley! He's the perfect older brother figure for Emma: always scolding her and what not.
Miss Woodhouse: Johnny Lee Miller. Hands down.
Melody: Johnny Lee Miller from 2009. Indubitably. If you don’t understand that he IS Mr. Knightley (or as close as they come), well, you probably never will, so I won’t bother trying to explain it to you. *mischievous grin*
Miss Elizabeth: Johnny Lee Miller. Definitely. I liked Jeremy Northam's Mr. Knightley, but he looked a little too smug to be Mr. Knightley. Johnny Lee Miller is much closer to the Mr. Knightley in the book.
Miss Woodhouse: I didn't really pay attention to this Mr Woodhouse, probably because I didn't see him very often.
Melody: Mmm… he was okay. Just not memorable. Because I’m having trouble picturing him right now while I’m writing this. He didn’t seem very Mr. Woodhouse-ish.
Miss Elizabeth: Well, if he didn't make remarks about everyone's health, I wouldn't have guessed that his health was at all poor or that he would be a person that would be concerned about everyone's health. As for his acting, I didn't particularly care for it: his lines seemed forced and not natural to me.
Miss Woodhouse: Stellar performance by Michael Gambon! I couldn't have asked for a better Mr Woodhouse.
Melody: Michael Gambon was an excellent Mr. Woodhouse, in keeping with the excellent character portrayals of most everyone in this adaptation. (You’re right, I’m not trying to be unbiased here.) The only complaint I’d have about him is that he might have been a tad too old—he was supposed to have been a little older than most young men when they marry; and since he’s supposed to act older than he is, I suppose he could look older than he is, too.
Miss Elizabeth: I like Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse! He cared for everyone's health, but he meant well (heh, kind of like how Emma means well). You also had the impression that he was always looking after his health: Emma made his scarf tighter as he went on his usual walk, he had a blanket on him when he sat down some of the time.
Miss Woodhouse: Michael Gambon was an excellent Mr Woodhouse. He's definitely my favorite.
Melody: Michal Gambon, 2009. And I just love some of his quotes… “Wrap up warm, Emma, in case some of the younger dancers do something remarkably reprehensible—like, opening a window.” And the stuff at the beginning about the cake… hahaha. Ahem.
Miss Elizabeth: Definitely Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse (2009). His acting to me was more sincere than James Cosmo's Mr. Woodhouse.
Mr and Mrs Weston
Miss Woodhouse: I didn't very much like Mr Weston in this version but Mrs Weston was wonderful. She was pretty, not too young, and her and Emma's relationship was, I believe, true to the book. There was more of a mentor/friend about her than Jodhi May's performance.
Melody: I didn’t like Mr. Weston at all in this version—can’t explain why exactly, but he just didn’t seem like Mr. Weston. Mrs. Weston was good enough, but not all that great.
Miss Elizabeth: I felt like I didn't really get to know Mr. Weston very well. I know he was there, but that's about it. So I can only really comment on Mrs. Weston. She was okay, I guess. I don't really have much to say about her.
Miss Woodhouse: Mr Weston was great in this adaption. I liked seeing the little romance between him and Mrs Weston. Mrs Weston - Jodhi May was too young for the role of Mrs Weston and I can't say she was very pretty like Frank Churchill said. The director seemed to focus more on her and Mr Weston's relationship than her and Emma's friendship.
Melody: I liked Mr. Weston in this one. His open, easy-going manner was very nice. I didn’t find him perfect, though, and thought he looked a tad too old for his wife. Jodhi May as Miss Taylor (Mrs. Weston, father!) I liked them very well indeed.
Miss Elizabeth: Here I really feel like I got to know both Mr. and Mrs. Weston in this Emma. Mr. Weston was very likable and a good husband to Miss Taylor ("Mrs. Weston, Father!"). Mrs. Weston was played very well by Jodhi May: she was kind of quiet, but I never imagined Mrs. Weston to be a very loud person.
Miss Woodhouse: I liked Mrs Weston better in the '96 adaption but Mr Weston better in the '09 one. It would have to be blending of the two.
Melody: 2009 on for both of them.
Miss Elizabeth: Definitely 2009 Mr. and Mrs.Weston since I got to know both of them more.
Miss Woodhouse: Toni Collette played a very air headed Harriet. I didn't like her at all.
Melody: Harriet Smith is one of the main things I dislike about this version. For one thing, Jane Austen actually described what Harriet Smith looks like, and she rarely does that with any of her characters. This version paid no heed to it. Her character wasn’t too bad—she was sweet, etc.—though I do think they overdid on her being so awkward and… well, stupid.
Miss Elizabeth: The one thing that really bothered me about this Harriet was her hair: to me, Harriet's hair should be blond and not red! Other than that, I guess there was nothing wrong with Toni Collette's Harriet, but something about her voice kind of vexed me.
Miss Woodhouse: There was also something lacking in this Harriet. She was too weepy, I think.
Melody: Not 100% perfect, but I liked her. She matches the book’s description well enough, and kept with the character. She was also rather likable in some ways, I think, and though they made her just a tad more dense than the book, it was funny. Oh, and I loved her in the scene where Mr. Knightley asks her to dance.
Miss Elizabeth: Now, as much as I like Harriet Smith and as much as I like Louise Dylan's Harriet, I felt at times that she was a little bit of an air head. I don't mean it as bad as it sounds, but she did seem a little ditzy.
Miss Woodhouse: I suppose Harriet is a hard part to get right...I didn't really like either of the Harriet's but I guess the 2009 one is the best.
Melody: Louise Dylan from 2009.
Miss Elizabeth: If I had to pick one, it would be Louise Dylan's Harriet. I'm not that big of a fan of Harriet Smith in the first place; she's okay, but not my favorite characters.
Miss Woodhouse: This was a "lovely, lovely, lovely" Miss Bates. I think Jane Austen would be pleased. I love how she gives her mother random words of her conversations. Very funny.
Melody: Sophie Thompson made a delightful Miss Bates. The sound of her constant chatter was very good, and I liked how she wasn’t too old like in some of the adaptations. I think she got the cheerful aspect of Miss Bates very well.
Miss Elizabeth: When I read Emma, this was the Miss Bates that I pictured. She chatters, she lighthearted, she's THE Miss Bates.
Miss Woodhouse: I don't think Tamsin Greig got Miss Bates' character right. She seemed as though she was trying to be cheerful all the time instead of being cheerful all the time like in the book.
Melody: This dear lady was a very good Miss Bates as well. I loved how she was so interested in everyone else—you could really tell she had a good heart, and it was easy to sympathize with her.
Miss Elizabeth: I liked Tamzin Greig's Miss Bates, but she takes a different approach to Miss Bates than most people take. She doesn't portray Miss Bates as a very silly woman, but instead makes her more sympathetic.
Miss Woodhouse: Sophie Thompson's Miss Bates is delightful and my favorite.
Melody: Now here’s an odd case—I’m actually not sure. I think they both had good points. I’m not completely sure why, but I’m going with Tamsin Greig from 2009 version. “And she can speak French like a native! –Though, I’m not really sure that’s such a sensible thing…”
Miss Elizabeth: I love both Miss Bates, but I'm going to have to give it to Sophie Thompson's Miss Bates.