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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jane Austen's Emma (A&E)
Jane Austen's Emma (A&E)
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Review by Chris Hughes | posted July 3, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1. Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital AC-3). Subtitles: English.

The Movie:
Jane Austen's Emma is a light comical novel of class and decorum. It concerns the affairs of one Emma Woodhouse, an effervescent young woman whose primary concern is the social affairs of her friends and acquaintances. Emma fancies herself quite the matchmaker and she sets about to construct relationships along her own idealized lines. Unfortunately these artificial liaisons often go awry; the realization of which eventually leads Emma to a deeper understanding of the meaning of love, friendship and loyalty.

A&E has established itself as a producer of high quality costume and period dramas. Their adaptation of Emma features beautiful clothes, picturesque locations and more English accents than you can shake a stick at. Kate Beckinsale is charming as Emma, delivering a detailed and sympathetic performance that breathes life into Austen's complex protagonist. The story moves along at a brisk pace and never fails to entertain from opening scene to denouement. In all, A&E's Emma is a finely crafted and successful distraction.

The Picture:
Unfortunately A&E fails to deliver when it comes to the technical aspects of this DVD, which is something of a surprise in light of the high quality of many of their other releases. The first thing you'll notice about the picture is its overly broad contrast. Black levels are far too high causing shadows, hair, clothing and other dark objects to sink into pure black. On the other end of the spectrum light elements are so bright that they wash out almost entirely. Another problem manifests itself in an excess of film grain. This is most noticeable in areas of mid-value brightness where objects seem to boil with it. In addition to these problems you'll see a distinct lack of sharpness. The image isn't out of focus but it appears much too soft. Even in light of these issues the video is far from unwatchable. Viewers with large screens will notice them much more than those with 32" and smaller sets.

The Sound:
Emma's sound isn't much better than its picture. The disc contains a Dolby AC-3 surround track but it's mainly wasted. Dialogue and most of the sound effects are firmly planted on the center channel with no panning whatsoever. The score exhibits good stereo separation on the mains but only occasionally drifts back to the rears. This is a dialogue driven program but it could have benefited from a more finely crafted sound track.

The Extras:
The only extra on the disc is a two-screen (four paragraphs total) text piece giving a little historical background on author Jane Austen.

Conclusion:
A&E's Emma is fine television programming but one has to question its value on DVD. This isn't the kind of drama/comedy that bears a great deal of repeat viewing. Once is probably enough for the vast majority of DVD enthusiasts. A&E didn't help matters by botching the transfer and shunning meaningful ancillary content. Emma is worth seeing though so I give it a 'Rent It' recommendation
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