The first part of a new multi-part adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma started airing on Masterpiece Theatre tonight, and I foolishly waited until the end of the football game to watch it (off the DVR). Of course, the thing is two hours long and I couldn’t turn it off because Jane Austen movies are like crack to me — Regency crack! This turned out to be even harder to turn off than I thought, because it’s a really engaging adaptation. It doesn’t really approximate the tone of the book, which is really tricky (I don’t think any period version is going to match Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, honestly.) But judged just as its own thing, this Emma is a lot of fun. There have been a lot of versions of this novel filmed over the past decade or so, but most of them have only been a movie of an hour or two. A novel with such a complex plot really deserves the full miniseries treatmet.

Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller as Emma and Mr. Knightley have a ridiculous amount of chemistry — which doesn’t really work with the plot of the book (the book is in Emma’s point of view, so the relationship between the two of them is supposed to be a last-act surprise to the reader as well as her; Knightley spends most of the book as a sort of grouchy, moralizing uncle). But, really, what with however many adaptations there have been, it’s not likely to actually be a surprise for anybody who’s watching this series. Given that, this adaptation does a nice job of actually making their friendship believable.

And, oh, Frank Churchill just showed up. God, I hate that guy.

Anyway, I’ll be sorry tomorrow when I have to go to work, but I’m enjoying this right now.

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