It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Austen fan in possession of her works and all subsequent adaptations, must be in want of further adaptations.
For those who don’t know – and in my experience, though not so vast, not enough people do – there is a currently a fantastic web series called Emma Approved, based on Jane Austen’s novel Emma.
This follows on from the hugely successful (Emmy award winning don’t you know) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a past addiction of mine that proved quite the threat to my uni work at the time.
Both shows are created by the amazing web video production company, Pemberley Digital which specializes in the adaptation of classic works onto the new media format. As the website (http://www.pemberleydigital.com) explains, and to give those of you unfamiliar with the story of Emma an idea, “In this series, we follow the iconic Emma Woodhouse, re-imagined as a bold, smart, idealistic, and audacious young female entrepreneur with an expertise in life coaching and matchmaking. Emma partners up with lifelong friend Alex Knightley, whose straight, logical, business mind clashes against Emma constantly, yet is exactly what she needs.”
Despite the dangers of obsession that come with being a fan girl (we all have our cross to bear after all), so too come the causes. In this case, an amazing adaptation of an already amazing storyline, hilarity, romance and let’s be honest, some very attractive faces.
Joanna Sotomura’s performance is stunning, in every sense of the world. She is truly, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, but it is her demeanour that far more crucially captures the essence of Emma’s character. She got it right from the start because I (and many others) instantly disliked Emma and then warmed to her fairly quickly, as you are supposed to. Whether it be the signature wink or simply a raised eyebrow, she has that character down to a T. I feel the need to mention that her acting in the last episode in particular, was outstanding.
This is true as well of Brent Bailey, whose ‘snarky Knightley’ is both hilarious and adorable, as the character should be. Though I love the previous portrayals of the character, I’ve found they tend to either be too soft or too harsh. Brent Bailey on the other hand has found the perfect balance between admonishing Emma and adoring her, doing so with even the most subtle expressions and body language. Anyone that can portray an Austen man that well, that quickly, deserves from serious praise.
Dayeanne Hutton is also incredible, making Harriet Smith’s character cuter than I thought possible. I fell in love with her portrayal instantly, and not just because I have a particular soft spot for clumsy and shy characters (being one myself.) It’s the energy she puts into this character that is so amazing and I can’t help but laugh everytime she’s on screen, even when she’s not doing anything particularly funny.
Kudos as well to Alexis Boozer (Annie Taylor), Gabriel Voss (Ryan Weston), James Brent Isaacs (Bobby Martin) and Paul Stuart (Senator James Elton) who deserve just as much praise. My only criticism of you all is that you’re not on my screen enough!
When you consider the format especially, and the simplicity of it, the acting in this show is amazing. I am so impressed with how the story has been adapted, as I was with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so that these characters are not only relatable but believable as real people too.
The possibilities that Transmedia creates certainly help in this. It allows a fan’s connection to the characters to reach another level. How many stories have we all read/watched and wanted to be able to interact with the characters? Well with this you can. Thank god for Twitter. Especially because the amazing cast also go out of their way to make sure they respond to fans too. That’s pretty cool. It means the world to the fans, me included. So thanks guys!
The dedication doesn’t stop there. With The Lizzie Bennet Diaries for example, the characters had a day out, so the actors and I imagine the crew, actually had the day out so they could post pictures of it! Emma Approved has already got ‘Fashion Looks’, which can be found on the website, and it has regular blog posts and tweets outside of the episodes. I can’t wait to see what else is in store!
Serious praise of course must go to Bernie Su and Hank Green, creators of the show and general geniuses. They have managed not only to adapt such well known and well loved stories successfully, but also managed to do so cleverly and as a result, uniquely. An impressive feat for stories that have been told so often.
It’s the little details in this adaptation I particularly enjoy. The fact that Emma is a lifestyle coach/professional matchmaker where she is an amateur matchmaker in the novel is brilliant, but also having Mr Elton’s character as Senator for example, means the story makes sense in the modern world too. It’s fantastic.
Though this is predominantly a review of the show I’d like to take the opportunity to express my most ardent love for Jane Austen and her creation of stories that 200 years on, are still being adapted because they are still so loved.
I have found that many men presume Austen is just for women or indeed that women only enjoy her works for the romance. Though I would be lying if I said characters like Mr Darcy and Mr Knightley didn’t occupy my thoughts a lot of the time, in truth, it is the observational humour which I so enjoy in Austen’s works.
It is testament not only to the fantastic job Bernie Su, Hank Green and co. have done to modernize this story, but to Austen herself as well, who’s brilliant understanding of the world meant that these stories can be modernized; they are as relevant now as they were in her time.
As we have seen, modern adaptations are very popular right now as well, need I mention Sherlock? (Yes, yes I do need to, but not right now. I’ll save that for later.) On that sidetracked note, I think I’ll wrap this up!
If you share my love of everything Austen, or just fancy some romance or some lighthearted fun, I thoroughly recommend the wonderful Emma Approved. I cannot praise it enough.
Emma Approved returns after a – far too long in my opinion- break , next Monday 3rd February at 5.00 p.m (GMT). Which means now is the perfect time to catch up on the series so far! You can watch it here: http://EmmaApproved.com or http://www.youtube.com/user/PemberleyDigital as well as visit the Twitter and Facebook pages (which you can find on the website.)