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Similar to the equally excellent Valmont, this version of Jane Austen's classic novel had the misfortune of following a sumptuous big-star version with Gwyneth Paltrow, which was released the summer before. And, just as 1989's Valmont suffered comparisons with Dangerous Liaisons, inevitably these Emmas were held up next to one another. This delicious Emma concerns a young woman of financial substance (Kate Beckinsale), who fancies herself a matchmaker, especially with shy Miss Harriet Smith (Samantha Morton, who also appears in A&E's Jane Eyre). In Emma's swirling world of social activity and social consciousness, one's position and stature is a constant preoccupation. But to her credit, Emma, albeit a busybody, has compassion for all classes, and for her kindly but hypochondriacal father (Bernard Hepton). This miniseries is more subtle than the grand theatrical release, is truer to the novel, and gives a richer explanation of the relationship between Emma associates Jane Fairfax (beautiful Olivia Williams of Rushmore) and the duplicitous Frank Churchill (Raymond Coulthard). Of course, at the center, as in all Austen stories, is the romance between the unsuspecting leading lady and an unlikely, but wholly suitable gentleman. In this case, it's Emma and her brother-in-law, the righteous (as played here) Mr. Knightley (Mark Strong). Strong's Mr. Knightley is more reserved, less coy than Jeremy Northam's; he plays Knightley more like Mr. Darcy (the leading man in Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which A&E also offers in a wonderful miniseries). Beckinsale proves to be utterly delightful and in no way should this excellent adaptation be ignored.

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Special Features About Jane Austen

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AAE70027 Jane Austen's Emma DVD (1996/Kate Beckinsale) $19.99 $17.99