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Anya's Emma is a thing of Joy: James King's Week in Movies

Emma, Ready or Not and Mulan are James King's top movie picks this week...

James King

Having spent several days talking about this year's male-heavy Oscars and then working on a couple of shows I'm making about James Bond (more details soon!), it made a pleasant change to escape all that testosterone for a few hours and enjoy the three female-led movies I've chosen for you this week. With their wit and wiliness, their brains and brawn, this trio could easily give 007 a run for his money.

ON THE BIG SCREEN

Anya Taylor-Joy has shown us she can do dark and twisted in movies such as Split and Thoroughbreds but in EMMA - the latest adaptation of Jane Austen's classic comedy of manners - she proves she’s equally adept at fresh and frothy too. Plus, she looks great in a bonnet. So whilst it's true that there have been other adaptations of this story (even 90s favourite Clueless was based on it), none are quite so delicious to wallow in as this. Director Autumn de Wilde has gone big on pastels and pretty faces... and the result is stunning.

Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy) is a young, privileged woman who - without much else to do - decides to help her protégé Harriet (Mia Goth) find a husband. There are plenty of available men around, from the dashing Mr Churchill (Callum Turner) to the sly Mr Elton (Josh O'Connor) but sure enough, the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly. Even confident Emma finds herself flustered when she realises her neighbour Mr Knightly (Johnny Flynn) might know her better than she knows herself.

READ: 15 of the most romantic movie moments of all time to get you in the mood for Valentine's Day

For a tale that’s over two hundred years old, EMMA still feels modern and relevant; as cheeky as a contemporary rom-com, as addictive as a dating show. It’s about class, it's about the roles of women, it’s about family, but thankfully things never get preachy. With accomplished comedy stars Miranda Hart and Bill Nighy in supporting roles, you know a laugh is always close by. Anya Taylor-Joy, meanwhile, plays the title character with such pizazz and energy, the whole story feels like a welcome wake-up call after a long, cold winter.

EMMA [U] is at cinemas now.

 

ON THE SMALL SCREEN

Looking for an alternative to the usual Valentine's romance? READY OR NOT is a wickedly warped take on true love and the family secrets that go with it - not a million miles away from recent chillers such as Get Out and The Purge. So whilst there’s a marriage at the heart of the story this is more Stephen King than Richard Curtis. Really it should have been called One Wedding and a Whole Load of Funerals.

ready or not amazon

Former 'Home & Away' actor Samara Weaving stars as Grace Le Domas, a newlywed who discovers her husband's wealthy (and just a little bit eccentric) family have a bizarre initiation rite that she’s forced to go through with on her wedding night. To them it might seem like a game but to Grace it’s terrifying and the result is a film that says a lot about tradition and privilege in between the creepy scares.

MORE: Why the ending of Netflix's To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You was disappointing

But READY OR NOT also plays up to its own silliness, its tongue very much in cheek, never more so than in the character of Grace’s new mother-in-law Becky, played by a purring Andie McDowell. Whilst Andie’s real-life daughter Margaret Qualley has been the toast of the showbiz world for recent turns in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and TV's 'Fosse/Verdon', here it’s the lady herself stealing scenes, playfully tapping into the film’s uniquely twisted vision.

READY OR NOT [15] is available to rent and buy on Amazon Prime, Apple, DVD and Blu-ray.

 

COMING SOON

It's true that not every Disney remake is as good as the original but with a back catalogue as legendary as theirs it's no surprise they’re keen to revisit classics and rework them for a new audience. Latest on that list is MULAN, a live action take on the 1998 animation (and Chinese folk tale) about a female warrior, this time played by South East Asian superstar Liu Yifei. It’s going to be epic.

MULAN [Cert TBC] is released in the UK on 27th March.

 

James King is a writer and broadcaster who presents on BBC Radio 2. He worked for many years as the resident film critic at BBC Radio 1 and hosted The Movie Show on ITV2.