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Posts Tagged ‘modernisation’

emma

This was always going to be an interesting read for me in one sense or another. This books is a new version of Jane Austen’s Emma (a modernisation of each Austen novel was written for a Harper Collins series and this was the third of that series). Emma is not only my favourite Austen novel, but quite possibly my favourite novel of all time by any writer. I’m always intrigued by book and film remakes/reboots/reimaginings/retellings or the numerous other re-whatevers that are around so I sorted of looked forward to reading this, while also approaching with some trepidation.

Anyway…to condense the storyline for anyone who is not familiar, Emma Woodhouse is a privileged young lady who gets pleasure from trying to organise her friends lives and relationships, and fancies herself as an expert matchmaker. However, her meddling is about to result in a few life lessons learned for Emma…

Honestly, having finished this book I am  not sure WHAT to make of it. I definitely didn’t hate it – McCall Smith has a gentle and genteel style of writing, which makes it easy reading, and this book more or less stays true to the original storyline. However, it never really sits well in the modern age. The characters still seem stuck in the original era, but whereas in Austen’s novel, there is sparkling wit and humour, and Emma seems quite a modern young lady, here she seems old-fashioned and something of a snob. Austen wrote that Emma was a heroine who nobody except herself would like (I actually love Emma’s character, flaws and all) and McCall Smith seems to have actually created this very Emma. There is nothing particularly warm about her, nothing to make the reader understand her or root for her, and attempts to remind us that it is set in the current day – mentions of modern technology, modern transport etc – do seem awkwardly shoehorned in, just to remind us that this is indeed a modern retelling. Thus, even if you take this as a novel on it’s own merits and try to block out thoughts of the original, it still doesn’t quite work.

I would have liked more Knightley in this one – he barely features – and less padding at the beginning; at almost 100 pages in and Harriet Smith still doesn’t warrant a mention!

So overall an interesting experience. I’m not disappointed that I read it, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to Austen lovers, unless like me, you’re curious to see how the story sits in a modern setting.

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Think of Jane Austen’s Emma, transported to a 1990s Beverly Hills High School, and you get Clueless.  Alicia Silverstone is Cher, a spoiled teenager, whose life revolves around clothes, shopping and being one of the most popular girls in school.  She and her friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) take new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) under their wing and give her a makeover, in the hope of pairing her up with good looking Elton (Jeremy Sisto).  However, nothing goes to plan, and Cher starts wondering if she’s really as good at this matchmaking business as she thinks she is – or is she really just clueless?

As a big fan of Emma, I was intrigued to see how this modern day version worked, and – although I suspect I’m a bit older than the audience at which this film was aimed – I did enjoy it a lot.  Alicia Silverstone was just the right combination of loveable and infuriating, and Brittany Murphy was lovely as Tai.  Paul Rudd was adorable as Josh, and Breckin Meyer and Jeremy Sisto both provided good support.

You don’t need to have any knowledge of Emma to enjoy Clueless – it can either be viewed as a retelling of the story, or as a sweet film in its own right.  A likeable cast and some funny moments make it well worth seeing.

Year of release: 1995

Director: Amy Heckerling

Producers: Twink Caplan, Barry M. Berg, Robert Lawrence, Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder

Writers: Jane Austen (based on novel ‘Emma’), Amy Heckerling

Main cast: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto, Dan Hedaya

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Click here for my review of the novel ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen.

Click here for my review of the 1972 mini series adaptation of Emma, starring Doran Godwin.

Click here for my review of the 1996 film Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Click here for my review of the 1996 television film Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale.

Click here for my review of the 2009 mini series adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai.

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