This is going to be a totally brutal battle of ~lewks~ and I am NOT READY TO MAKE A DECISION! You will notice that I am including a shout out to the Production & Costume Designers of each film because these films are 90% AESTHETIC and these masterminds must be recognized!
Directed by: Autumn de Wilde
Written by: Eleanor Catton
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy
Production Designer: Kave Quinn (Trainspotting, The Woman in Black)
Costume Designer: Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots)
IMDB Synopsis: In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
Autumn de Wilde...
"When her arthritis got so bad that she needed a cane, Autumn de Wilde didn’t just pick one up at the pharmacy. She went to a 19th century Victorian umbrella shop in London and told the shopkeeper: “I need your weirdest cane.”
The idea of following standard protocol is anathema to De Wilde. Every day, she dresses in a uniform — some version of a suit with a broad-brimmed felt hat. (She says her style is a mix of Paddington Bear and Oscar Wilde.)"
This movie was so exceptionally gorgeous, I spent every other minute pausing it to weep. I'm barely exaggerating. Every frame was like a sucker punch to my deepest aesthetic dreams, except the punch was soft and ice-cream colored and somehow smelled good? de Wilde's sense of beauty was so carefully executed it almost hurt to look at - every single frame was a post card, a painting, a wink, a treat.
I honestly don't know which was more delicious, these rose & mint-chocolate chip interiors...
Or these impossibly sexy, technicolor pastel exteriors...
Also, sorry/not sorry, but every single time I see realistic lighting executed appropriately in a film from now on, I am compelled to scream out MEEK'S CUTOFF! Because I still haven't forgiven Kelly Reichardt for making me watch half of that movie in the pitch fucking dark. IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE PERIOD-APPROPRIATE LIGHTING AND ALSO STILL LIGHT YOUR ACTORS AND ALSO EVEN BE FLATTERING thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
I must confess, I am obsessed with Mia Goth's browless Harriet:
“One of the things I was most struck by that seemed very intimately her is her female gaze on men and romance. When you look back through at the men she has photographed, she’s not afraid to take in what’s beautiful about a man’s body — this is how he’s childlike but also tough.... I just think it’s interesting in this moment, when you wonder what have we been missing — it’s a different way to see men. Of course we’ve missed women’s voices and stories, but men have missed out on a certain kind of tenderness that someone like Autumn can give. It’s interesting to think there may be some healing in that.” - Miranda July
While I agree with July's assessment, I have a bone to pick with Jane Austen: unpopular opinion, I know, but Mr. Knightley is a dick?? When he finally comes to make his declaration of love to Emma, we get one of the GREATEST lines Austen ever wrote:
"I cannot make speeches, Emma...If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more..."
And then follows it up with one of the WORST lines Austen ever wrote!!!
"...But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it."
So, essentially, Mr. Knightley realizes he loves Emma because he's been a huge DICK to her and she's been a real CHAMP about it? Ew! He may as well have come up to her on the playground and said, "Hey I know I keep kicking you and throwing sand on your head, but you've been really cool about it, wanna be my girlfriend?" Being "rich" or "resilient" isn't a justification for cruelty, you're just too lazy to articulate your witticisms in a kinder way. Get the fuck outta here, Knightley.
If I had a SINGLE criticism (besides Knightley), it would be those goddamn Handmaids... throughout the film, there is a visual thread of these dozen or so schoolgirls that traipse through the town walking all in a line, like a whimsical marriage of Madeline and the track team from Juno. It's cute, it's quirky, but there is no denying that they look straight out of Gilead.
I fortunately discovered this thread on Instagram that explains her choice contextually:
"These coats were very popular in the Regency period for young women to wear (mostly in the country) during the colder months in England. They were out of style by the 1830’s. The following images are the illustrations of Diana Sperling (1791-1862) whose whimsical illustrations of girls out walking in these coats was a great inspiration to the design of their look." - Autumn de Wilde's Instagram
...But I still can't help thinking that given the rest of the incredible, ice-cream shoppe hues in the film, de Wilde easily could've gotten away with making these robes either more plum or more raspberry. How cute would a dozen ladies in dark fuschia robes have been?? I get where the inspiration came from, but I'm afraid we live in a post Handmaids Tale era now and there are some looks that get claimed by something and can't ever, ever be duplicated without the audience automatically thinking of the original. I love Lady Gaga to death, but the pointy bra belongs to exactly one artist and it ain't her.
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
Production Designer: Steven J. Jordan (A Night at the Roxbury, Never Been Kissed)
Costume Designer: Mona May (The Wedding Singer, Zenon: The Zequel)
IMDB Synopsis: A rich high school student tries to boost a new pupil's popularity, but reckons without affairs of the heart getting in the way.
"I just wanted to do something about the teenage experience; it's such a wonderful and horrible time of life."
Before I can even ATTEMPT to talk about ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES AS A YOUTH, please let your gentle eyeballs kindly absorb the delicate absurdity, the outrageous decadence, the pinnacle of camp itself (!) of these totally bonkers 1990's outfits...
Things I LOVE about this movie (besides the iconic fashion) :
- Cher is a virgin and proud of it? This was a ballsy move for a teen film in the 90s. It was incredibly sex-positive while also avoiding prude-shaming. She wasn't a virgin because of any religious or misguided purity-obsessed reasons, she was a virgin because she was PICKY. That was groundbreaking.
- Baby Brittany Murphy!!!! 😭😭 Besides being a wildly underrated talent whose life went tragically awry, I always forget how goddamn pure she was. In fact, there's a lot of wholesome, genuine purity in this movie. I think it was on the Vulture TV Podcast that I heard a writer say, "there's nothing more endearing than ridiculous characters who have no idea how ridiculous they are." And this is a whole movie full of them.
- PAUL GODDAMN RUDD!!! This movie is responsible for making Millennial women turn this silly, adorable man into a sex icon. And you know what? He's never shitty to Cher. I forgot what an asshole Mr. Knightley is to Emma in the original, and I'm not into it. Paul Rudd manages to call Cher on her bullshit in a way that doesn't degrade or humiliate her, while also encouraging the good parts he sees in her. Now that's hot.
- Stacy Dash!! I love the fact that Cher has a black best friend who is every bit as rich, popular, and ridiculous as she is. She is never tokenized (except maybe with a hat or two...) and her blackness is not her only character trait. For 1995, that was a fairly new accomplishment.
I remember watching this movie as a kid and it blowing my mind in a way that it wouldn't be shocked again until I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was so rare to me to find an example of girly femininity that was also coupled with spunk, resourcefulness, and (in her own way) scrappy intelligence. She was flawed, quirky, strong, bold, and just happened to like dressing like a Beverly Hills Barbie. Cher was no damsel in distress, and she wasn't a Disney Princess either. She was a whole new thing, and I fucking loved that.
And the winner is...
Clueless will always hold a special place in my heart, but there is no denying the utter deliciousness that was de Wilde's Emma. The way she captures her women, her men, her textures and color and beauty and ugliness... her hands were all over that film and they were careful and reckless and bold and perfect, and I wanted to eat up every moment of it.
“De Wilde, however, views “Emma” as an offering of levity during a period of political unrest that makes us feel “like we’re all being bullied.” And she takes issue with those who view films with ornate scenery — like those of Wes Anderson, one of her creative inspirations — as pure fluff.