Top 10 Goofs in “Emma” (2009)

Top 10 Goofs in “Emma” (2009)

Today’s post was planned to be about the 1997 Kate Beckinsale version, but technology can be fickle and thanks to a DVD player that picked a decidedly inconvenient time to malfunction, I opted for plan B – a version of Emma that I could stream. The four-episode 2009 BBC adaptation of Emma, with Romola Garai in the title role, and Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley is currently included in the Amazon Prime subscription, so it won the lottery by default. This adaptation is truly charming, and I seriously considered changing the topic from “goofs” to “favorite scenes and moments,” because I have scads of them. In the end, I decided to stick with goofs, since this is a series, so here they are, in no particular order:

10.) Protecting the chickens? – When Emma and Mr. Knightley are departing on their two-week honeymoon, John Knightley complains about having to stay with Mr. Woodhouse. Isabella consoles him and explains, “… but there is a wolf about, and we need a man to protect the chickens.” Apparently, the screenwriter was unaware that wolves had been extinct in the south of England for centuries at that point in time.

John and Isabella Knightley

9.) A lady never goes “stag” to a ball – On the night of the ball at the Crown Inn, Emma arrives alone in her carriage. A young, single woman of that time would never have arrived at a social event such as a ball alone. While a chaperone would be the traditional and expected choice, in Austen’s novel, Harriet is Emma’s companion to the ball.

Emma, the lone occupant of the carriage, is handed down by a manservant outside the Crown Inn.

8.) The case of the mysterious shadow puppets – There is a scene where Emma is trying to listen to a story that Mr. Weston is telling, but Mr. Elton is determined to get her attention, doggedly pulling her away from the spot where she can hear. If you watch the wall behind her, you can see the shadows of hands moving, although her own hands are lower and still. When she goes away and returns, the shadows are not there.

Mysterious shadows dance on the wall behind Emma.

7.) Why waste the candles? – The scene begins out of doors, and the sun is clearly shining. Emma and Knightley move indoors and the first room they are in has no candles lit since there is plenty of natural light coming through the windows. The next room they go to still has lots of light from the windows, but there are candles lit all around the room.

Let’s just burn some candles during the day, shall we?

6.) A sudden thaw – After the Weston’s Christmas Eve party ended prematurely due to the onset of snow, a great show was made of the snowy landscape, first at Donwell and then at Hartfield. The next scene is of Emma going to Mrs. Goddard’s to take a Christmas present to Harriet, and bear the news that Mr. Elton was not, in fact, in love with Harriet. While the novel explains that there was some passage of time where the weather kept Emma indoors, this adaptation just has Emma walking up the drive next to a green lawn with her gift in hand right after the snowfall.

The Christmas snow at Hartfield.
Christmas gift delivery at Mrs. Goddard’s house.

5.) Those “newborn” dolls are creepy – Earlier in the film, when Emma is holding her stiff and motionless little niece, it’s easy to assume that it is actually a doll she’s holding. At the end of the final episode, however, we see Mrs. Weston’s baby, it is obviously a doll.

At least Mrs. Bates is finally looking alive.



4.) What about the horse? – The dramatic scene begins with Frank racing his horse through town, charging down the path where he comes upon Harriet and her friend are being assaulted and robbed by the gypsy children. Frank takes an athletic leap off his horse and races toward Harriet, effectively chasing the children away. He carries Harriet, weary by the time he gets her to Hartfield. There is no indication of what happened to the horse, and I can’t help be wonder why he didn’t put her on the horse instead of carrying her himself.

Frank Churchill coming to Harriet’s rescue.
Frank abandons his horse to carry Harriet all the way to Hartfield.

3.) The self-repairing coif – After Emma’s piano and vocal performance at the Cole’s dinner party, you can clearly see that one of her curls has broken free and is hanging in a long ringlet. A moment later, her hair is restored to it’s earlier perfection.

Flinging one’s head about while singing tends to loosen the coif.
Movie magic sets the coif to rights.

2.) Emma’s superpower – During the infamous scene where Mr. Eltonsnubs Harriet, the dancers are engaged in a loud and somewhat wild dance, yet Emma manages to overhear the conversation, with her attention divided between the dance and what is going on with Elton in quiet tones on the sidelines. Apparently, Emma has been endowed with super-hearing, because a normal person wouldn’t have been able to hear it at all.

Emma reacts to Mr. Elton’s snub of Harriet.

1.) Fast fingers – This goof isn’t glaring, but I saved it for the number one spot because it’s such a romantic moment–the moment leading up to their first kiss. Emma takes Mr. Knightley’s face in her hands, and her fingers are resting on his ears. The camera cuts to behind his head and her fingers are behind his ears.

If Mr. Knightley loved her less, he could talk about his feelings more.
Emma’s fingers leap to the position behind his ears in a fraction of a second.

You’re welcome to add to the list of goofs if you spotted some I didn’t include, but I would also love to hear comments regarding your favorite moments. I’ll start. That moment when Emma and Mr. Knightly go to tell Mr. Woodhouse they are going to get married and he reaches over and holds her hands, which she has behind her back.

Telling Mr. Woodhouse they are to marry. Together.

20 Responses to Top 10 Goofs in “Emma” (2009)

  1. This is my favorite Jane Austin production. I really enjoyed the time taken to develop the characters and stay true to the story as the author wrote it. In this film, Emma was written and portrayed spot on, and frankly this was not one of my favorite Austin books! I hope her other novels are given the care this one received. I really think the mini-series is the best way to capture these nuanced multi-layered stories. I would really love to see Jane Eyre (by Bronte) finally done true to the writer. So many of these classic novels have been give short shrift via film that you wonder why would anyone consider them great literature. Perhaps more true interpretations of these novels by film will encourage younger folks to read. I can dream!

    • It really is wonderful when an adaptation speaks to us and takes it’s place as our favorite Austen production. This one is truly delightful and works it’s way into your heart.
      I was at a writers conference this weekend, and one of the instructors talked about going to the Bronte Parsonage in England and discovering how much of their writing was born of their surroundings. The parsonage itself, the Gothic cemetery, and the moor just beyond it all have a very “Bronte” vibe. As I listened to her talking about it, I thought to myself that I really need to read Jane Eyre again. Your comment makes me wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. 🙂

  2. So glad to see a return of this goof series of posts as I love to see all the goofs I miss. I didn’t catch any on your list. My favorite scene is where Mr Knightley tells her how badly she’s acted.

    • I do appreciate the feedback that you enjoy the Goof posts. They take quite a bit of time to assemble, usually requiring multiple re-watches over the weeks leading up to the post, so if people don’t like them, I want to know. I agree that the scene you mentioned is well done. Well done, indeed. 🙂

  3. Thank you for your list. I have to say that I don’t watch movies looking for errors but there are times when it just hits one over the head. The doll is so obvious as a baby has a so much large head in reality. I like the Kate Beckensale version because the ending is so romantic. One thing you are not pointing out is the fact that there are 16 years of difference in age between Emma and Mr. Knightley so these versions are wrong in the actors they chose to play the part. For a truer age difference in the actors I believe the 1972 version is most accurate. I must also add that when I read lists like this I find myself then looking for the errors, i.e., the hair in the lens in the 1995 P&P version. Thank you for sharing.

    • I agree about the age thing. It seems to be a common thing in Austen adaptations to cast actors who are nowhere near the age of the character they’re playing. Sometimes it plays out better than others. It didn’t bother me much in this version with the exception of “teenage” Emma not seeming any younger than adult Emma. The only difference was that her hair was down in her younger scenes and it was up in the older ones. I take some comfort in the fact that little goofs can creep into even the most carefully produced film. For me, it puts my own lack of perfection into perspective.

  4. Nearly missed this! I have seen this version but missed all these apart from the doll! So no I’m afraid I can’t add to your list.
    Shame about your DVD player as the Kate Beckinsale version is my favourite production of Emma.
    Still I will look forward to that one when you get chance.
    How on earth did you notice number one? Must be the fascination with Jonny Lee Miller :). 🙂

    • The funny thing is that the appearance of the doll is SO brief that if you aren’t looking right at it, you would never notice it. As for the placement of Emma’s fingers during the kiss, I had heard this particular goof mentioned in the past, so I was watching for it. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it either. The hazards of cutting multiple takes together is that each one plays out slightly differently. I sometimes wish I got more than one take in real-life!

  5. Ha Ha! Diana, you are so good at finding these little things which I enjoy reading. Some definitely more glaring than others. You’re right, the doll baby is really creepy. Fun research!

    • I find most of them when I watch with a hypercritical mindset – similar to the kind of thinking cap I put on when I’m editing as opposed to writing. Doing this series has certainly sharpened that skill, since that mindset doesn’t come naturally to me and isn’t my “go-to” approach when watching enjoyable movies or TV series, either. Thanks for commenting, Jen!

  6. These lists are so much fun, Diana! The scene with Frank Churchill carrying Harriet is one that caught my attention, too. Why DID he carry her all that way? The other scenes on the list are ones I didn’t catch, but I now want to re-watch the movie to spot them. This isn’t my favorite version of Emma, although I think Jonny Lee Miller was a great Knightley.

    • It’s fun to compile the lists too. I do find that once I’ve spotted the goofs, I can’t “unsee” them, which is a bit of a shame. As for FC’s heroics, It seems like if she twisted her ankle, the horse would have been an excellent solution, and if she didn’t twist her ankle, what was the point of FC – who isn’t exactly brawny, carrying her what had to be a long distance? I can’t reconcile it, particularly since he didn’t have any feelings for Harriet. I can’t honestly decide which version of Emma is my “favorite,” but I did find this one delightful.

  7. Those were great catches and I missed every single one of them. This version isn’t my favorite. Somehow, I just can’t relate to it. However, I collect Austen movies so… it is in my collection. There are some versions that I have viewed so many times… I’ve had to replace them [I wore them out]. LOL!! Thanks for sharing today. I always enjoy reading your post.

    • I also collect them, but don’t have this one in my collection yet. I will be adding it – I found it completely delightful. I loved the actress who played Emma and I’m a fan of Jonny Lee Miller, but Harriet left me cold in this version. That’s funny that you’ve worn some of your versions out. I’ve only had that issue with the VHS tapes that I started out with. My collection is all DVDs now and I’m something of a tyrant about them – nobody touches them but me! LOL.

  8. I saw a version of Emma but I will have to see some other ones to see if I can spot any goofs! That’s funny how you can see things like that!lol

    • Spotting goofs doesn’t actually come naturally to me. I have to pay very close attention and watch for them. It’s an entirely different approach to watching movies and TV series, as my natural inclination is to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the show.

  9. So insightful. I love this series, Diana!

    Looking forward to you doing my favorite Austen adaption (actually a tie with 1995 P&P): 1995 Sense and Sensibility 🙂

    • I’m delighted to hear that you are enjoying the series. I’ll consider your mention of your favorite as a “request” to line up the “Sense and Sensibility” adaptations behind the versions of “Emma.” I love that particular film too.

      • Wonderful!

        I hope you can find proper screenahots for the A&E version of Emma. It is also a good adaption 🙂

        • For this series, I take my own screen captures of the precise moments where the goofs manifest. I was going to do that version of Emma this time, but my DVD player decided to only display black and white instead of color, so I had to switch the order of adaptations.

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.