Emma - The Period Piece Problem

I was a little apprehensive going into Emma. In fact, I’m even more apprehensive about writing this review if I’m honest, for fear of exposing what an unsophisticated oaf I am.

I’m not keen on period pieces for a number of reasons: as anyone who went to a public school will tell you, the standard secondary school History curriculum is more or less entirely about World War II, and maybe a bit of World War I, if you’re lucky; so my understanding of society during the time Emma takes place is roughly equal to Emma’s understanding of the events of the second World War.

When you go back past a certain point, everything is about wealth and status (well, more so than it is right now), but nobody really has a job as far as I can tell. They either have money and spend all day in the parlors of their various mansions, or they don’t have money and just aren’t in the story very much. Ok, there is some generalisation going on in my description, but you get the point: it’s all obtuse and inaccessible to me.

So whenever a character does something terribly egregious for the time, like use the wrong fork at dinner, or speak their mind as woman, I never know what to expect the consequences of those actions to be. On top of all that, there’s the fact all the characters speak in old English, which creates somewhat of a language barrier to someone as “cool and trendy” as me.

Despite all the trappings of the genre, I did enjoy Emma at times. The characters were all quite whimsical and entertaining, and the performances were strong enough that for the briefest of moments the fog of stupidity would clear in my mind and I could understand everything that was happening, as if they were suddenly speaking my tongue. That being said, they were fleeting epiphanies in an overlong film.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that “it’s long and boring” is exactly the sort of insight one might expect from a twenty-something online blogger about the work of Jane Austin, however, it’s the job of a critic to voice their honest opinions, in order to help readers make an informed decision about a piece of entertainment. So if you’re anything like me, adverse to the old, this isn’t going to be the one to ease you in. Instead I would recommend The Personal History of David Copperfield or Little Women (2019).

Written by Kyle J.

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