Friday, 21 February 2020

Emma (2020) - Movie Review

There is nothing worse than writing about a film’s inefficiencies, and in the process only highlighting those same inefficiencies in your own writing. Like writing about something not being funny, while you yourself aren’t making people laugh either, or describing a dull event that itself reads like the literate version of paint drying. And as I find myself trying to muster up things to write about in regards to this movie… yeah, I am honestly worried that I’m just going to bore my dear readers to tears in trying to express how much I didn’t engage with this particular work.

Part of me just wants to write the whole thing off and just… not write about it. But that would put this film in a category outside of pretty much every other film I’ve written about on here, and while it’s not nearly that bad, it’s certainly not that special either.

Okay, let’s try and be balanced with this. The casting is pretty good. Anya Taylor-Joy adds nicely to her range as the lead, Bill Nighy is occasionally fun as her father, and if nothing else, seeing Mia Goth in a film that doesn’t require her to be the sexual plaything of an inhuman monster (Nymphomaniac, A Cure For Wellness, High Life) is quite refreshing.

Ditto for the visuals, which shows first-time director Autumn de Wilde on pretty solid footing all-round. The costume design is vibrant, the set design is regal triumphant, and the physical blocking of the actors is so tightly-wound as it be like living clockwork. It’s almost theatrical in how measured-out and pristine it gets, and while my later statements may argue against it, it’s certainly not a bad film by traditional standards.

But the fact remains that it is still a costume drama, one focused on the British aristocratic class, and I rarely if ever engage with these kinds of stories. Although, in hindsight, I think that might be more directly a personal aversion to Jane Austen than to the sub-genre as a whole. I say that because my issues with this are pretty much the same ones I had with Love & Friendship. Namely, the sense of humour on display.

This comedy of manners, ‘so stiff you’d think the stick up their arses were of the same composite as their own anatomy’ methodology is just… not that funny. Or, more accurately, it's way too low-key to really register as funny. Seeing people struggle with whether to stand up or sit down, or seeing people just be awkward, isn’t enough to get the giggles going. This is made worse by how it really doesn’t show through who the joke is supposed to be on: Goth’s Ms. Smith and Josh O’Connor’s Mr. Elton for not being ‘civilized’ enough to understand the etiquette, or everyone else for being so uptight that their behaviour is enough to rattle them.

Outside of that, in regards to the main plot about the titular Emma and her ill-fated attempts at match-making, I find it incredibly difficult to muster up the shits required to find the minor inconveniences of the upper-class to be worth investing in. Let alone two hours of minor inconveniences, all portrayed through enough refinement to make the old cliché of watching paint dry seem like a legitimately better option.

Subjective, subjective, subjective, but I just could not get on with this one. I don’t think I’ve struggled this hard to get into a movie in a very long time, and I’m usually the dude who likes most things, even if no-one else does. If you’re reading this for a possible recommendation, then I’m sorry to report that I can’t really go one way or another on this one. It’s not bad; I just couldn’t get into it because of my own personal tastes. If you’re reading this to watch me strain through my own apathy, then I hope the last few paragraphs were worth the time.

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