Emma is the fourth triumphant adaptation of a Jane Austen novel to be released recently. Gwyneth Paltrow gives a wonderful performance as the 21-year-old protagonist who is beautiful, intelligent, high-spirited, and witty.
Taking it upon herself to find a suitable husband for Harriet Smith (Toni Colette), she pushes and promotes her charge to two eligible bachelors, who promptly fall in love with other women. The sole critic of Emma's matchmaking efforts is Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam), a close friend and confidant who delights in her independence, energy, and moral propensities.
This thoroughly engaging romantic comedy is richly enhanced by several other delightful performances Sophia Thompson as a socially awkward spinster, Juliet Stevenson as a crass and vulgar snob, and Alan Cummings as a social climbing vicar. Writer and director Douglas McGrath keeps the proceedings moving along at a brisk pace with just the right mix of atmospheric charm and social satire.
In the end, Emma learns from her errors and realizes how dangerous it is to mess with other people's lives. That is why Jane Austen's 1816 novel remains a vivid cautionary tale for well-intentioned do-gooders.