‘Emma.’ is Stylish, Bighearted, and Eager to Get Love Right

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CREDIT: Box Hill Films/Focus Features

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Butt

Release Date: February 21, 2020 (Limited)/Expands March 6, 2020

In the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s meddling matchmaker, there are two moments that happen back to back in a pair of private quarters which really represent the power of this version. First we see Emma Woodhouse’s longtime companion and confidant George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) being dressed by his servant. The sequence begins with him stripped down to his birthday suit, giving us a quick peek at his bare behind. Once he is all set to o, it cuts to Ms. Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) receiving the final touches from her help, and while we do not get a full au naturel view of her, she does take a moment to hike up her dress and pose while placing her hands at her side. Taken together, it is marvelously striking how rarely we get to see bare legs like these in a literary English period piece, especially in one that is so otherwise bright and bold in its costume decisions, what with its feathers in caps and a mustard-yellow trench coat.

It makes sense that we get such a peek into private spaces, considering how much first-time director Autumn de Wilde has chosen to emphasize the vulnerability at the core of this story. It is no big surprise to see Flynn as Knightley cut to the emotional core of any conflict, but you might be taken aback by just how much we get to see his beloved open up as well. Emma presents herself as a know-it-all, but when she realizes that she may have screwed up, her worry about catastrophe is devastating (so much so that her nose starts bleeding at one point). Taylor-Joy and her big, expressive eyes are quite the casting coup here. There’s no way for her to fully hide what she’s feeling. When she discovers how badly she insults Miss Bates (Miranda Hart), and how wrong she’s steered her friend Harriet (Mia Goth), and how much she’s offended Knightley, the tears come flowing as she confronts the fear that she may have made herself the biggest pariah around.

One of the biggest themes of any version of Emma is the power in allowing people to fix their mistakes. In this Emma., when those re-dos occur, the characters have big smiles on their faces, and I bet you will, too. It’s a lovely adaptation, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a story I was already intimately familiar with, and yet it has somehow awoken previously undiscovered sections of my heart and subconscious.

Emma. is Recommended If You Like: Wit mixed with tears

Grade: 4 out of 5 Love Matches

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Knows What It Wants to Say, But It’s Still a Messy Slog

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Jude Law

Director: David Yates

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Fiery and Occasionally Hate-Filled Magic

Release Date: November 16, 2018

Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is the wizarding world’s worst nightmare, at least for those witches and warlocks who care more about morality than power. His evil is more complicated and confounding than that of Lord Voldemort, as he has a knack for convincing people to act against their best interests. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald knows what devastating points it wants to make with Grindelwald, but they are stuck within a bunch of dithering around. The film climaxes with the dark wizard holding a rally, bringing to mind charismatic politicians who have sowed hatred throughout history. Even though Grindelwald has made it clear that he wants pure-blooded wizards to rule over all magical and non-magical folks, he uses suspect but alluring promises to convince some people who very much do not agree with his agenda to join him. This is irrational, but it’s a type of irrational behavior that has caused real devastation. However, instead of coming of as a frightening warning, these unreasonable decisions all just feel nonsensical.

Take for example Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), who is in love with non-magical Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) but lives in a society in which their marriage would be illegal. There is no way she could reasonably be seduced by Grindelwald, who would not support their union except for how it might offer him a chance for manipulation. There could be a powerfully relevant story about Queenie being swayed to the dark side, but instead her shift is too sudden and too jarring, and thus ineffective. Her subplot is a microcosm of The Crimes of Grindelwald‘s problems.

Elsewhere, there is plenty of other business going on. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is in Paris looking for some sort of MacGuffin or another. Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is becoming ever more dangerous for whatever reason. There are farcical misunderstandings about who is engaged to whom. Various magical creatures act in ways that are kind of cute and/or frightening, but not particularly memorable. In conclusion, Jude Law is a fine young Dumbledore (and perhaps a fine young everything), and any future Fantastic Beasts installments should not be afraid to use him more often.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is Recommended If You Like: Every nook and cranny of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter but without getting too worked up about the details, The Young Pope

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Salamander Eyes