Roger L. Simon

The Importance of Being Emma

No one beats a screenwriter for hating everybody else’s movies (including most of his own), so I am known among my friends as a terrible film curmudgeon, bemoaning the great days of Fellini, Bunuel, et al. What a bore. So I’m pleased any time I can recommend a new one and I did quite enjoy Nanny McPhee, which Sheryl and I saw with Madeleine Saturday night of its opening weekend at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinema. Of course, I am a huge Emma Thompson fan, as an actress and as a writer. Her script for Sense and Sensibility was one of the best Austen adaptation’s ever. I also understand she had her hand in the new version of Pride and Prejudice. emma.jpegHere she has written herself a role filled with wart-filled amusement as the Nanny-from-Hell come to reform a family of deliciously unruly kids. At first you almost cannot look at her, then her blemishes (and snaggletooth) gradually disappear as the children do reform and it’s the same beautiful Emma. Corny, but effective.

McPhee has some other terrific performances, stacked as it is with a who’s who of the British stage – Colin Furth, Derek Jacobi, a scenery-chewing Angela Lansbury. And speaking of scenery, that’s probably the best part of this film – Michael Powell’s colorfully playful Victorian sets which resemble William Morris on acid. imrie.jpg Costumes are in a similar vein as you can see here from the photo of Celia Imrie who portrays the potential Wife-from-Hell for hapless Colin Firth. You will not be surprised to learn that it never happens.

Don’t take this as an unqualified rave. I am at the point in my life that I realize that your pleasure in a movie (or anything else) is vastly related to your mood, place and the company you are with. Who knows if I would like La Strada if I saw it now? I might get bored. (Nights of Cabiria, which I have seen recently, however, did not bore me. It still made me cry forty years after I had first seen it.)