Can you believe it’s been 25 years since a boy? Gwyneth Paltrow our hearts when Emma stole Woodhouse, flirted with Mr. Knightley, and exchanged jokes with bow and arrow in hand?
Sane people may not want stupid women, but they do crave a good Jane Austen adaptation, and Paltrow’s Emma is one of the best. The victorious story of love and social advancement published in August 1996 brought renewed interest in the eternally charming and clever works of British author Austen’s early 19th – waist dresses and neatly ruffled updos at her ’90s balls).
Many of us think of a wet shirt when we hear Austen Colin Firth in “Pride and Prejudice” (Mr. Darcy, our literary friend now and forever). But Austen’s novels were much more than just impotent romance novels that satirized class and gender roles in a way that even lends itself to modern adaptation.
To celebrate Emma’s 25th anniversary, here are seven of our most popular modern Austen adaptations.
With her Hollywood pedigree, slender beauty, and graceful charm, Paltrow may have been destined for box office success. But it was her bubbly, romantic twist as a would-be matchmaker that quickly got out of her depths in Douglas McGrath’s romantic adaptation of Austen’s “Emma”, which catapulted her into leading actress status long before Goop and his rose quartz water bottles and jade. Eggs were a twinkle in her eyes. The impotent Regency-era fashion and the numerous supporting actors – including Toni Collette, Alan Cumming and the newcomer Ewan McGregor – make this piece a lasting pleasure. – Barbara VanDenburgh
Don’t be fooled by the setting of the period: last year Anya Taylor-Joy-guided “Emma” came out as a sexy, sardonic and dazzling comedy that wears its modern sense and sensitivity (sorry) on its sleeve. While Paltrow was a charming matchmaker in the 1996 starry adaptation, Taylor-Joy gives the character a caustic, feline quality. You never know exactly whether to trust or fear Emma when she introduces her sober friend Harriet (Mia Goth) to a Rolodex of indistinguishable admirers, but you understand why Emma keeps her own future beaus at bay. In the stylish world of director Autumn de Wilde, schoolgirls walk in straight lines with red cloaks and winged bonnets that are reminiscent of “The Handmaid’s Tale” – and remind moviegoers of the power of men over women at that time and make Emma’s refusal to marry all the more sonorous will. – Patrick Ryan
An Austen adaptation list that does not include “Clueless?”. Uh, as if! If you didn’t know Emma, you might not even know that it was the very casual inspiration for this cheeky teen comedy classic starring a truly iconic Alicia Silverstone. Her stupid but well-intentioned Valley girl Cher Horowitz plans to bring two die-hard teachers together at her high school in hopes of getting a better report card while also giving her new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) a complete fashion and missed personality makeovers. The who’s who supporting cast of Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash and Elisa Donovan are absolute delight, and the film itself is endlessly quotable (“You’re a virgin who can’t drive”). And let’s not even start with Cher’s high-tech wardrobe, which is just as cool today as it was in 1995. – Ryan
“Bridget Jones Diary” (2001)
It’s no secret that Bridget Jones’s story of romantic suffering and spinning suitors is loosely based on Austen’s “pride and prejudice”. (But if you’ve forgotten, there’s no way to overlook the parallels between Elizabeth Bennet’s romance with Fitzwilliam Darcy and Bridget Jones’ debacle with Mark … Darcy, played by Firth.) Elizabeth’s first encounter (at a ball) was equally embarrassed when Bridget doesn’t meet Mark so sweetly at a holiday get-together. But the tipsy story starts from there, as Renée Zellweger’s weaknesses and frustrations as self-esteem-seeking Bridget evolve the Austen-ingrained premise into a franchise that saw breakups, makeup, and a baby. – Andrea Mandell
Austen fans have become characters in their own right. In 2007, The Jane Austen Book Club, a group of friends (including Emily Blunt and Hugh Dancy) used their novels as a roadmap to their own messy romantic life, while Austen loyalist Mindy Kaling said her sitcom, “The Mindy Project ”was inspired by“ Pride and Prejudice ”. But the ultimate fan base is in “Austenland,” a deeply-reviewed but perfectly enjoyable rom-com about a “pride and prejudice” obsessed Jane (Keri Russell) traveling to an Austen-themed resort where guests see their literary works can perform romantic fantasies in contemporary clothing. It’s basically a book nerd version of Westworld, and this is a future we wholeheartedly welcome. – Ryan
‘Love & Friendship’ (2016)
You may have overlooked Kate Beckinsale in this wonderfully hilarious film based on Austen’s novella – and that should be corrected immediately. Beckinsale hits perfectly narcissistic tones as the beautiful, widowed Lady Susan, who puts English society in jail for her affair with a handsome married lord and seeks to put her dangerous finances in order by planning to hire her teenage daughter Frederica ( Morfydd Clark) to get married. In the delicious story with barbed wire, Lady Susan leans against an American friend (Chloe Sevigny) and together they maneuver around sexism that is burned into the norms of the 18th century. Austen curiously wrote the story (“Lady Susan”) at 20, but never published it during her lifetime. In the hands of Beckinsale, it remains as modern as ever. – Almond
‘Sense and Sensibility’ (1995)
Directed by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Brokeback Mountain”), this lush and stately drama is the standard bearer of straightforward Austen adaptations. England’s verdant countryside, wistful and melodic score, and gorgeous costumes all contribute to his continued success, but his trump card in the hole is Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning screenplay. She plays alongside Kate Winslet from the time before the “Titanic” the role of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, sisters from a wealthy English family who fell into sudden poverty after the death of their father and who have shrunk through the life and love of theirs Class have to find their way around. – VanDenburgh