Gwyneth Paltrow is the vivacious Emma Woodhouse, whose matchmaking schemes unravel most entertainingly in this lovely Jane Austen adaptation.
Directed in a fast and fanciful way by Douglas McGrath, which exactly matches the gossipy subject matter, the film also excels in terms of its costumes, locations and supporting performances.
Presenting a picture-perfect world, the movie’s cleverest scenes are those in which the polite surfaces are playfully ruffled to reveal the realities of wealth and social position that dictate just who marries who.
Jeremy Northam is the perfect gentleman as Emma’s friend Mr Knightley and Alan Cumming, as a priggish vicar, and Toni Collette, as a lowly girl, both shine brightly as they become the focus of Emma’s plans.
Complete with a top hat and long hair, Ewan McGregor makes a hilarious first entrance as the other key eligible man and his singing is a further highlight. Sophie Thompson has a heartbreakingly embarrassing scene as the garrulous Miss Bates and the outstanding follow-up sequence, in which Northam reprimands Paltrow for her cruel behaviour to Bates, is where the movie and its two stars prove they really are something special.
This film is not showing on BBC2 Wales.