I'm an old fart who still has an eye for the ladies. I saw the Masterpiece production of emma the other night, (OK, precisely 5 nights ago),and thought it wondrous. I've been a Beckinsale fan since 'Serendipity' one of the all-time great romantic movies, so I tuned in for her. I'm not a great Austen fan, SF, Fantasy & mystery more, but I really really really liked this movie. I recall seeing the Paltrow version shortly after it came out and all I can recall about it is she was a matchmaker who wasn't very good at it. Surprisingly, both movies were made the same year, 1996. Anyway I downloaded 'Emma' from project gutenberg, (googlize it, you won't be sorry), and couldn't put it down or rather turn it off. There's a very good etext reader called etr, (I'm running linux, but I think there's a windows version for you poor benighted windows users), that will unzip a zip file on the fly.
To the book -- some of the previous posters were very irritated at Emma's character, spoiled, rich, vain, not very intuitive. Austen herself says so in the first paragraph. But she changes doesn't she? The reverses that she meets with cause her to slowly revise her opinion of herself downward, with the not inconsiderable help of Knightly; near the end of the book she says to herself she's not sure she could have changed without the help of Mr Knightly. I would be more annoyed at her reliance on the help of a strong 'superior' man if it weren't for the opposite case of Jane and Frank Churchill. In the latter case, it's hoped that Frank's character can be strengthened by his conjugation with Jane. Of course the sense of class permeates the book, the servants don't have any lines. One of the funniest scenes in the movie shows the servants carting furniture up to the top of Box Hill for a picnic. All those characters without a sense of their own natural superiority strive to marry above themselves; money is often involved. Those Americans who slam the English for their class consciousness should look at their own small towns. I grew up in a small town, the son of a dentist and was always aware that I was a different class from the farm kids who were bussed into our consolidated school. There are no classless societies, but in many of them an individual can join the upper classes; given money and time and a lot of both. It's late and I'm tired, and terse, so... your thoughts?