Have any of you seen the first part of Emma, the BBC’s latest costume drama? And last for a while, if reports are to be believed. There hasn’t been a big production of Emma for over a decade, so Romola Garai has rooted through the bonnet cupboard, and a four part series started last weekend.
I’ve watched the first episode, and I enjoyed it a lot, though am still more or less straddling the fence. I love Romola Garai in everything she does – mostly I Capture the Castle, but also Amazing Grace, Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel, and Atonement. She makes a feisty, self-confident Emma, and could turn out to be rather great.
Michael Gambon is a wonderful hypochondriac as Mr. Woodhouse, wrapped in scarves and uncertainty. Tamsin Greig wasn’t quite as funny as I know she can be, but perhaps her Miss Bates is played more for pathos than humour.
My issues? Their Mr. Knightley (Johnny Lee Miller) was young and handsome and everything a modern film hero should be, but not remotely like Mr. Knightley is. Miller is much too young, and the match is much too suitable… on the page, I found it a little creepy, since they are much more brother and sister than anything else… Still, Miller may do for Knightley was Alan Rickman appears to have done for Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, and made a rather bizarre, unromantic match seem like a dream come true.
And the other thing… the language was so often too modern. I found myself muttering to the television, ‘is there no historical advisor?’ When the credits rolled, I saw that there was… and he is my tutor at Magdalen! Well, there you go.
All in all, fun and fresh way to ‘do’ Emma, and only slight misgivings. I’ll certainly be watching the rest. (Any UK readers who missed it, the programme is available through BBC i-Player.)