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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emma is a sweet-natured period film that may not have much appeal to tweens and younger. Teens, especially those enamored of Jane Austen's novels, on which this is based, might find it enormously appealing. It revolves around manners, society, and of course romance. There's much discussion about matchmaking but no onscreen canoodling. The only language issue is that some of the people circle around what they're trying to say without actually saying it, which may be confusing. Expect some social drinking; one character blames a social gaffe on having had too much wine.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, young EMMA Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) thinks she knows everything about love and deems herself matchmaker to her friends. She fixes up Harriet (Toni Collette) with Reverend Elton (Alan Cumming) and pairs her governess with Mr. Weston (James Cosmo). But Emma learns that she isn't as successful in the ways of love as she'd believed, especially when it comes to handsome Mr. Knightly (Jeremy Northam).
Is it any good?
This romantic movie is worthy, warmhearted family entertainment. As Emma, Paltrow is stunning -- funny and charming, but brave enough to give full weight to her character's occasional smallness and snobbery. Toni Collette, Alan Cumming, and Sophie Thompson ( as jabbering spinster Miss Bate) all turn in skilled comic performances.
While the story may seem a bit highbrow to attract a young audience, kids will warm to it. The mysterious behavior of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax will catch their interest, and they'll find characters to identify with, regardless of the occasionally highfalutin dialogue. With its spectacular interiors and gorgeous swaths of English countryside, viewers with reasonable attention spans will find plenty to like. While die-hard Austen fans may cast a vote for the BBC version of Emma, this is a much more appealing version for a general audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Emma and Austen's other stories remain relevant today. What aspects are relatable in the modern world?
What do you think about Emma's hobby of setting up matches? Do you think she finds good pairs? Do you think the recipients of her attention appreciate her efforts?
Why is Emma unable to see her own romantic possibilities?
What do you think about the manners of the era? How do they differ from contemporary mores?
- In theaters: August 2, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 1999
- Cast: Alan Cumming, Gwyneth Paltrow, Toni Collette
- Director: Douglas McGrath
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Communication, Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for brief mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.