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Nearly 180 years after her death, Jane Austen is on a roll. First, the author's Sense and Sensibility charmed critics, movie audiences and Oscar voters. Now movieaudiences can enjoy Emma—another delightful Jane Austen tale equally appropriate for family viewing.
Emma chronicles a plucky young Englishwoman's well-intentioned, yet often misguided matchmaking endeavors. With an allegiance to 19th century propriety, the film ensnares its smartly written characters in a tangled web of romantic speculation. No lewd scenerios. No immoral affairs. Not a single sexual innuendo. Just the drama and humor of human courtship captured in a more innocent age.
Miss Emma Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) plays cupid with such mischievous giddiness that we get caught up in her well-meaning schemes. Emma has a good heart. But, at times, she lets the thrill of the challenge itself distract her from focusing on the needs of the people she's manipulating into relationships. In the end, Emma is among the most surprised at how love follows its own path. Positive themes include treating others kindly, the beauty of character and celebrating marriage. Families can also:
— Talk about the difference between wanting to help others and being a busybody. How can reckless meddling in someone's life interfere with God's will?
— Read James 3:8 and discuss Emma's unkind remark to Miss Bates. How did it hurt them both?
— Contrast the modesty and purposefulness of courtship in the film with modern attitudes toward dating.
— Discuss how Mr. Knightley's statement, "The truest friend does not doubt, but hope," reflects 1 Corinthians 13:7.
Emma is nearly perfect entertainment. Its one minor flaw lies in the title character's willingness to tell "white lies" to further her own agenda. But overall, cupid hits the bull's-eye. Michael Medved called Emma "the best film of 1996, and a profoundly moral film." We agree.