Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, James Cosmo, Greta Scacchi, Alan Cumming, Toni Collette, Polly Walker, Denys Hawthorne, Sophie Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Kathleen Byron, Phyllida Law, Edward Woodall, Bret Miley, Brian Capron, Karen Westwood, Paul Williamson, Rebecca Craig, Juliet Stevenson, Angela Down, John Franklyn Robbins, Ruth Jones
Emma Woodhouse (Paltrow), good-looking, clever, and rich, has lived nearly twenty-one years in the country, near London, with her gently selfish father, Mr. Woodhouse (Hawthorne). The two enjoy the frequent visits of their cheerful neighbor and intimate friend, Mr. Knightley (Northam). Emma delights in playing matchmaker. She brags to Knightley about having brought about the marriage of Mr. Weston (Cosmo) and Miss Taylor (Scacchi), her former governess, but he tells her she just made a lucky guess. When attempting to match up her friend Harriet Smith (Collette) with Mr. Elton (Cumming), Emma starts to run into complications. Miss Smith would rather marry a local farmer, Robert Martin (Woodall), but Emma discourages her. When Mr. Martin sends Harriet a letter of proposal, she shows it to Emma, who sniffs, “It is a good letter. One of his sisters must have helped him.” Emma is not herself interested in Mr. Elton and does not perceive his interest in her. She does notice a dashing young bachelor, Frank Churchill (McGregor), who occasionally visits his father, Mr. Weston. Emma generally avoids the boring Miss Bates (Thompson), an older spinster, but out of a sense of community duty she regularly visits her and her mother, Mrs. Bates (Law) in the nearby village of Highbury. Mrs. Weston encourages a developing friendship between her husband’s son, Frank, and Emma, her closest friend. New in town is beautiful Jane Fairfax (Walker), Miss Bates’ niece. Jane appears to have a secret admirer, and this intrigues Emma, but she is unable to learn his identity. Harriet, influenced by Emma, turns down the marriage offer from the farmer, Robert Martin, only to discover that Mr. Elton doesn’t love her. Elton is infatuated with Emma. At a picnic, frustrated when things do not go as she wishes, Emma makes a derogatory remark about Miss Bates, who stammers as she gradually grasps the meaning of the insult. Mr. Knightley quickly soothes Miss Bates and later chastises Emma. “Badly done, Emma!” Knightley tells her. Knightley’s stern disapproval leaves Emma on the verge of tears. Her interest directed toward others, Emma gives little thought to her own feelings. When she finally figures out who is the one person she truly loves, Emma fears it may be too late. The cinematography of Ian Wilson deftly captures the charm of the early 1800’s English country settings. Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name.