In this 1996 adaptation of a Jane Austen novel of the same name, American actress Gwyneth Paltrow is ever so English, because she has nailed not only the upper-class British accent but also the upper-class British bearing and demeanor. As Emma Woodhouse, she thinks she is all-wise about everyone's romantic longings and plays puppeteer to manipulate eligible men and women into marriageable position. Ironically, the person she knows least about -- and the person with the most interesting matrimonial possibilities -- is herself. The audience suspects that Emma and the handsome George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) will eventually pair up, but then again there is always the dashing Frank Churchill (Ewan McGregor). Meanwhile, director and scriptwriter Douglas McGrath centers the action on other romantic intrigues, as well as gentle satire and drawing-room wit and repartee. Toni Collette shines as the naive and gullible Harriet Smith, the focus of matchmaking gone wrong, and Juliet Stevenson becomes vanity personified as Mrs. Elton.
by Mike Cummings review