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Classy Matchmaking

Emma (1996) on IMDb

Plot Overview

rotating earthIn a time when one's town was one's world and the actions at a dance excited greater interest than the movement of armies, there lived a young woman who knew how this world should be run.

friendship hierarchyIn Regency England twenty-one-year-old Emma Wood­house (Gwyneth Paltrow) of high birth has, thanks to her single-minded efforts, seen (“What a triumph!”) the wedding of her governess Miss Taylor (Greta Scacchi) to their neighbor Mr Weston (James Cosmo.) She now turns her attention to the vicar thinking, “When Mr Elton [Alan Cumming] joined their hands today, he looked very much as if he would like the same kind of office performed for him.” She discourages plain Harriet Smith (Toni Collette) on society's fringes from accepting the proposal of honest farmer Robert Martin (Edward Woodall) as being beneath consider­ation and instead has her set her cap for the needy reverend. A lot of caps will get set and reset before the dust settles in Jolly Old England.


spudTo effect her purpose Miss Woodhouse takes Harriet in hand and calls on a bed­ridden congregant (“Miss Clark, how are we?”) They make her (“What have you brought us?”) some potato soup. Leaving there they pass the vicar's dwelling where by chance [?] they bump into him in the lane, and answering his inquiry about what they've been doing, Emma describes Harriet's skilled minis­trations to the sick woman while Emma had merely watched her. The camera goes back to the actual scene where we see it was Emma who'd done the ministering while Harriet did her best to stay out of the way. Harriet is being promoted as preacher's wife material. Okay.

As a matter of policy Christians are not supposed to advertise their charitable deeds, so it would have been a better answer to say the pair of them had tended Miss Clark with­out mentioning who had done what. A similar dynamic occurs in the writings of the apostle Paul. He asks the whole church as a group to accept him and his entourage in their hearts, (2Cor. 6:11-13) “be ye also enlarged,” which is different from the sectarianism he denounced earlier in First Corinthians where some were claiming to follow Paul and some various other apostles. They are all of a group.

farmerEmma's confidant George Knightley (Jeremy Northam) is of a different opinion about the possible match of Harriet with farmer Clark, which Emma had squelched.

Mr. Knightley: “... You wrote her answer, didn't you?”

Emma: “If I did, I would have done no wrong. He is not Harriet's equal.”

Mr. Knightley: “I agree he is not her equal.”

Emma: “Good.”

Mr. Knightley: “He is her superior in sense and situation!”

Knightly patiently explains, “The advantage of the match lies entirely on her side: illegitimacy and ignorance to marry a respected, intelligent farmer. Who­ever her parents were, they made no plans to introduce her into good society. She was left with Mrs Goddard. As vicar Elton is unlikely to make an imprudent match.” Despite Emma's best efforts she is unable to secure a match for Harriet with any man of good society, not with Mr Elton or anyone else.

In contemporary terms take Christian society. Christians are merrily going about making matches with each other as they should. Now take a Christian from a suspect church who is a genuine convert but hasn't been well discipled. Now she is of marriageable age and her friends forbid her to marry a non-Christian though he be respectable and a decent fellow. Unfortunately, no Christian man of her acquaintance will marry her as bringing him too little spiritual support. Would the minister marry her after insisting she limit her options to Christians? No way. She'd have to be an asset to his personal care ministry, unlike the klutz Harriet.

“Emma” extols the virtue of “a man of information.” Men should be smart and wise. Unfortunately today, men of the cloth are not necessarily men of information, at least with regard to under­standing the archaic 2nd person pronouns used in the King James Version (KJV.) When Paul says, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” he was addressing group worship using the plural ye, not individual marriages as would have required a singular thou and a singular antecedent. Our modern Bible versions too often suffer loss of information by substituting you for all four cases of the 2nd person pronoun. An example is the New Living Translation (NLT) where you-understood could be either singular or plural in, (2Cor. 6:14) “Don't [you] team up with those who are unbelievers.” But not teaming up with “those unbelievers” would exclude addressing a single you teaming up in marriage with that unbeliever as monogamous marriage would need require.

grocery shoppingPaul argues from the basis of what the Corinthians would have observed from various mixed marriages in their midst, (2Cor. 6:15) “what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Observing various marital conflicts in certain individuals' mixed marriages would clue the church in to not attempt that mixture in corporate worship. The individuals were allowed to marry mixed regardless so as to avoid fornication—or what­ever they thought was in their best interest. A woman in my church was married to a nonbeliever. Their marriage seemed as stable as any­body else's, and their children as well behaved. I'd see them out shopping just like any­body else. But I never saw her husband in church except some­times on Christmas or Easter. I could surmise that a non-believing life view was not compatible with what we express in church.

prayingMiss Bates (Sophie Thompson) at one point gushes to the vicar, “Mr. Elton, your sermon on Daniel in the lions' den was so inspiring, so powerful in all its particulars. It left us speechless, quite speechless, I tell you. And we have not stopped talking of it since.” In this movie Emma praying in the chapel would seem like Daniel a man of prayer. Emma being vigorously accosted in her carriage by Mr. Elton (“The party spirit has confused you!”) would seem like Daniel in the lions' den, too.

Daniel's accusers fed to lionsIn the Bible story the king retaliates against Daniel's accusers by feeding them to the lions, (Dan. 6:24) “and they cast them into the den of lions.” Elton comes back on the rebound with a new wife (Juliet Stevenson) who seems not right in the head (“Is it possible Mr. Elton met her while doing charitable work in a mental infirmary.”)

Production Values

” (1996) was directed by Douglas McGrath who adapted its screenplay from novelist Jane Austen's classic, Emma. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, and Toni Collette. The lead roles were quite well played, and the supporting parts held up as well. The costumes were period and the setting bucolic. Made me feel nostalgic for a place I'd never been. The music was pleasant and the traditional dancing might be seen any­where inter­national folk dancing is done.

Canadian Home Video rated it G. MPAA rated it PG for brief mild language. It's a Canadian product. Rachel Portman won it the Oscar for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score, and thanks to Ruth Myers it was nominated for Best Costume Design. The scenes are laid out like pages in a book. Characters are developed in detail. The easy tempo was greased for cinema.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

I found the droll plot less than soporific but I wasn't about to bite my nails for the love boat suspense either. It moved at a stately pace consistent with its period and class. It tied up various loose ends nicely. All in all, it was a respectable film. Enjoy it for its exotic ambiance.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for all ages. Special effects: Nothing jarring. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Trans­lation, copy­right © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Strean, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Print.