Emma 1996 is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma”, one of her most celebrated novels. This movie presents before us a picture of Emma Woodhouse who is beautiful, rich, young and has a lot to her own disposition. A warm and loving portrait of a young woman becoming her own, guided by a circle of friends who care what type of person she will become. The movie presents Emma trying to play a goddess in her little patch of England. This adaptation is more closely related to the novel as the people acting fit exactly the description of the characters created by Jane Austen. Emma in the movie is an alive portrayal of Jane’s Emma in the book.
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The liveliness of spirit, the beauty, the intellectual pride, the will to bend others according to her wish, the keen sense of match-making—all of these things are very conspicuously presented in the movie. The screenplay of the movie enlivens the banter between the staid Mr. George Knightley and the vivacious Emma Woodhouse, making the basis of their attraction more apparent. The locations, attires and actors chosen for the movie truly create a classic picture on the screen. Emma 1996 very clearly comes in relation with the novel due to all its spice, dialogues, tea parties and the solemn ball room. A keen and observant reader will never find a movie satisfying owing to the lack of the crisp and fresh happenings in the movie. Nonetheless, this movie covers a lot of major aspects of the book. Above all, it presents before us a more vivid notion of Emma and in general, a vivid notion of all the characters of the novel. Austen’s original novel deals with Emma’s false sense of class superiority, for which she is eventually chastised at the end of the novel. Nora Nachumi writes that partly due to Paltrow’s (lead heroine in Emma 1996) star status, Emma appears less humble by the end of this novel than she does in the novel.
Now, let us set “Emma” in a modern high school. Jane Austen’s characters, her readers, and the society in which her novels are set, like Jane Austen herself, are heavily conscious of class and social standing. The movie “Clueless” is based on the queen of romance Jane Austen’s “Emma”. Clueless is said to be a ‘modern adaptation’ of 1815 novel “Emma”, as we said earlier “Emma in a modern high school”.
In this movie, the leading heroine is named “Cher”. Clueless updates the classical story by coating it with high school drama, teenage girls, shopping and heavy doses of humor. Emma is no longer Emma, she is “Cher”, a spoiled rich girl walking around in her Beverly Hills Mansion amidst stereotypes and teen-clichés. Cher has been the mistress of her father’s house since her childhood, as her mother died when she was merely a toddler. Nevertheless, Cher is an open-hearted young lady. So open-hearted that she takes on the new girl in her school to find her love and popularity, despite knowing that it could destroy her own reputation. Clueless thus shows Cher and her friend Dionne on a mission to do good to someone. This aspect of the movie presents before us the picture of Emma woodhouse and Miss Harriet Smith. Emma chooses Harriet to make her popular and respectable, to do her good. Despite Mr. Knightley’s reproaches Emma continues her effort to be of some use to Harriet Smith, to do her some real good.
At another time, when Cher scolds her maid Lucy. Josh tells her that she was being mean and selfish in doing that. This reminds us of Mr.Knightley’s reproaches when Emma makes fun of Miss Bates at Box Hill. The famous passage in “Emma” in which Harriet burns all her ‘momentos’ of ‘Mr. Elton’ becomes the scene where Tai does so in front of Cher’s gasfire. Many aspects of the novel have been covered in the movie but all in a modern version.
The first striking difference between Emma 1996 and Clueless is the pathway of following the plot and the time periods. Emma is based in a nineteenth century culture, England while Clueless sets in Beverly Hills, USA in 1990s. Both Emma and Cher are young rich ladies. Money is important to both societies because money is the symbol of power and social status. Owing to this power of wealth, both the protagonists are filled with vanity, pride, arrogance and a false sense of social superiority.
Emma and Cher are supposedly the “epitomes of perfection” in their social standing and friend community. Emma has the beauty, charm, grace, wealth and wit of a nineteenth century English woman. Cher has everything a modern teenage girl can hope for. She has a jeep, a mansion and an unending supply of clothes and money. Both of these ladies represent the protagonist of our novel “Emma” in a clear yet limited way. The ‘Emma’ created by Jane Austen can said to be overlapping with Emma and Cher.