It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen was invented somewhere somehow to inflict untold misery on countless generations of schoolboys.
And so it goes on.
In truth, if you are an Austen fan, you will love this new adaptation of one of her classics.
You will relish the way she dissects our foibles, exquisitely laying bare the gulf between what we say and what we think, beautifully exposing the insincerities we choreograph between us – until eventually the veneer cracks and real emotion breaks through.
Until then everyone dances around everyone else in a mannered dance which just occasionally breaks into a real dance complete with fluttering eyes and heaving bosoms. Marvellous, the aficionados will say.
But if you’ve never been convinced by Austen, this isn’t going to convert you – partly because our heroine is such an insufferable creature. Which is, of course, the point of it all. When Emma is forced to reassess her behaviour, at last the film begins to get slightly more interesting.
The turning point is a moment of quite shocking picnic meanness – the one moment we might actually sit up in our seats. After that, it all perks up considerably.
But it’s reaching that point that’s the chore. Until then, Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma, scheming and plotting, is a bit of a yawn, with her knowing, pouty looks increasingly annoying… none of it helped by a ladle-it-on soundtrack which jauntily tells us ‘This is funny bit…. This is the really, really clever bit… Oh and this bit’s so, so good!”
Meanwhile, Bill Nighy rolls up every now and again to roll through his full range of Bill Nighy’s tics and mannerisms. Also pitching up is Miranda Hart as a slightly Austenised Miranda Hart, but mostly Miranda Hart – though just possibly she delivers the film’s best bit in her response to the picnic outrage. And definitely this is the moment the film picks up.
But mostly you’re left with the impression that this is a bunch of idle rich and genteel poor whose only real problem is that they have got absolutely nothing to do. Give them a 10,000-piece jigsaw. Or maybe a pair of running shoes each. Anything to stop them endlessly twittering on...