Emma (1996)

Emma (1996), directed by Douglas McGrath.

A rich single young woman who fancies herself a matchmaker: how much damage can she do? Lots: she's a society wrecking ball. Luckily this is a comedy: in Persuasion she'd be the villain.

All of Jane Austen's novels share a common theme: a young woman makes her way from her father's house into the world to achieve love and respectable marriage. Each ends with a wedding.

We are definitely in the women's universe when reading or watching her stories, and they illustrate facts of life of which most men are oblivious. That the social world is not just about rules, but that we swim in a thick ocean of manners and pretense, with uncounted tiny gestures of both kindness and snobbery creating the currents around us. Magically, Austen makes these things visible.

Gwyneth Paltrow is very fine here. She has Audrey Hepburn's elegance and that swan-like neck. Also a talent for refined comic mugging.

Great concentration of talent in the cast (Greta Scacchi fanclub!). Just as things are starting to slow down Ewan McGregor, Juliet Stevenson and Polly Walker arrive to set the pot boiling again. Compare McGregor's gossiping dandy with his Trainspotting junkie the same year!

Must have dancing in Austen! Beautiful sets, locations and costumes. Emma is rich, but she lives in a small farming village and we see a lot of the countryside.

Rachel Portman's score won an Oscar and we often used it for our Sunday morning brunch music.

This title has been poorly treated on home media. I recall the DVD was 4:3 letterboxed and there is no North American Blu-ray. I see the Weinsteins were the original producers and I tend to blame the financial struggles of their companies for home media failures, but don't know if they still control the title. It's too much for me to puzzle out.

My thumbnails are from an all-region Australian Blu-ray import, now out of print and expensive on the used market. Germany has another, not seen by me.

Quality is just fair, with blacks often crushed. The image has been drastically brightened compared to the film, which gave a more realistic impression of dark candle-lit interiors.

Cropped to 1.77 from 1.85. The subtitles use variable color-coding for multiple speakers, which is kind of distracting.