Whenever a book is adapted into a movie, it’s safe to assume there will be some changes made. In the case of Jane Austen’s Emma, there have already been some radical changes from page to screen. But in the 2020 adaptation of the classic novel, there’s one key change that may stand out to longtime fans of the book.
Emma’s director Autumn de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton knew it was important to make sure that the audience could stay invested in the characters’ stories. After all, the titular character, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, spends much of the story meddling in others’ romantic affairs -- especially her friend Harriet’s. And while realizing the consequences of her actions ultimately forces Emma to mature, it can still be difficult to make her sympathetic. According to Autumn de Wilde, in their literary adaptation, they made the heroine work harder than others have to earn her happy ending (via Indiewire):
Autumn de Wilde told Indiewire that they felt the solution to making Emma’s epiphany resonate with audiences lay in having her make amends with Harriet before she found her own romantic happiness. That twist gave Harriet the agency to offer forgiveness to Emma and heal the rift between the two on her own terms when she visits the Woodhouse estate:
Harriet’s role in Autumn de Wilde’s Emma is noticeably larger than it has been in previous adaptations -- and that fact drove the filmmakers’ decision to make her such a central part of the film’s resolution:
Despite some changes in how Emma plays out on screen, critics and audiences still seem to feel that the film tells a compelling story. It currently holds an 88% critic rating and perfect audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Emma is currently playing in select theaters nationwide.
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