Known for books such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s writings are genuinely timeless and surely make our hearts swoon. Therefore, it’s really no wonder why her writings are always the inspiration for retellings and adaptations through both books and movies. Undoubtedly, Austen’s classic novel, Emma, is beloved by many readers so long after its original publication on December 23rd, 1815.
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the main character Austen describes as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like?” It makes the reader more interested in reading about Emma’s character and development throughout the story. Also, who doesn’t love a story about a matchmaker whose skills only result in romantic misadventures and a bit of chaos? So, if you can’t get enough of Emma, here are some adaptations and retellings to watch.
1. Emma (1996)
Douglas McGrath’s 1996 adaptation of Emma stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Emma Woodhouse loves playing matchmaker. She has taken it upon herself to help Harriet Smith find a husband especially after Robert Martin proposes to her. But before she accepts, Emma convinces her she should refuse him because she can have better prospects. And when Mr. Elton shows desire for Emma by admiring the portrait she drew of Harriet, she misinterprets his desire as interest in Harriet.
Her attempts to match him with her friend fail when Mr. Elton declares his love for Emma who refuses him. Despite all this, Emma keeps trying when Harriet suddenly confesses she likes Mr. Knightley who danced with her during a ball. Meanwhile, Emma and Mr. Knightley fall in love. Now, Emma’s many matchmaking attempts only causes more problems than solving while also putting her chance at love and happiness at risk.
2. Emma (2020)
The 2020 version of Emma directed by Autumn de Wilde stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley. It is a witty romantic comedy film. It is another, but a more recent, adaptation of Austen’s novel and follows the same plot.
The 1996 Emma has more muted and softer tones of colors while the 2020 version is more vibrant and bright. It’s a very nice contrast between the two and their portrayal of the novel. Both versions are amazing depictions of the famous and classic book. They also each offer a different perspective on both Emma’s characterization and the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley.
Clueless is a coming-of-age teen comedy that is very popular and famous for the phrase, “Ugh! As if!” It’s a modern portrayal and loosely based on Emma. The film stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd. Cher is a rich, stylish, and popular teen. After a successful matchmaking she orchestrated between her two teachers in hopes of getting a better grade, Cher realizes she quite enjoys being a matchmaker.
When Tai transfers to her school, Cher takes her under her wing and gives her a stylish makeover. A crush develops between Tai and Travis, a slacker student. However, Cher tries to match Tai with Elton, a popular student. Meanwhile, Cher finds herself growing closer to Josh, her ex-stepbrother. But things get complicated when Tai reveals her feelings for Josh and asks for Cher’s help. A falling out between the two friends has Cher reflecting on her own priorities, recent failures, and ignorance to the people in her life.
Emma Approved is a modern retelling shared as a web series from the YouTube channel, Pemberley Digital. The series is vlog style where Emma is reimagined as a life coach and matchmaker documenting her life and career. Her company, Emma Approved, is an all-in-one lifestyle coaching, matchmaking, and event planning. She hires Harriet as her assistant after her business partner, Alex Knightley, forces her to.
Emma begins meddling with some of the people in her life while also handling her clients. She plays matchmaker with Harriet and tries to set her up with her newest client, Senator James Elton. She even almost broke up her sister’s marriage after her meddling goes too far. However, her behavior causes a falling out with her closest friends and her business partner. Harriet then confesses how she might have feelings toward Alex. This causes Emma to realize how she feels toward him as well. Now, not only is Emma struggling to handle all her clients and their events, but she also struggles to come to terms with her feelings toward Alex.
Austen’s novels are always adapted whether they’re trying to bring the writing to life as accurately as possible or just loosely adapting it into a more modern story. There are just so many different retellings. We’re definitely not clueless about amazing Emma adaptations, and they’re Emma-approved of course!
Want to read more about Jane Austen, check out some more of her novels that you might have not known about!