Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kate Beckinsale's Emma on PBS

MASTERPIECE™ “The Complete Jane Austen ‘Emma’” (#3808)

Sunday, March 23, 2008, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

Right around the time this version was released in England, and aired here in the U.S. on A&E, the feature film -- lush and pastel-ed -- was released theatrically, starring blonde and fair Gwyneth Paltrow, whose looks directly contrast Kate Beckinsale's fair-skinned by dark-haired eponymous character.

As for the love interest, Mark Strong's hair plugs or toupe are fairly distracting, but he's a powerful actor and his Mr. Knightley isn't full of smug humor as Jeremy Northam's. The petite Samantha Morton is also better suited as Harriet than Toni Collette, another big presence, but this time in a role that calls for impressionable and demur.

The 1996 Becksinsale version is, on the whole, not as pretty as the theatrical version, but it tells a slightly richer version. The Frank Churchill/Jane Fairfax story is notably more fleshed out, and Olivia Williams, is, frankly, a better Jane than Polly Walker (who is stunning, but not really age appropriate for the part).

Kate Beckinsale (Underworld) stars in the title role as the tireless matchmaker who professes no interest in matrimony for herself, only for her orphaned protégée, Harriet Smith (Samantha Morton, Longford). Still, Emma does feel a certain twinge for Frank Churchill (Raymond Coulthard, “He Knew He Was Right”) and a brotherly regard for Mr. Knightley (Mark Strong, “Prime Suspect 6”).