Book to Movie Challenge 2016: Emma (1996), Anna Karenina (2012), and In Her Shoes

movie challenge
I haven’t watched this many movies since before I had kids, when Netflix & Chill was still Blockbuster & Chill* and it’s all thanks to ebookclassics’ Book to Movie Challenge 2016. It’s comforting and nostalgic to go shopping at HMV, to buy movie snacks, to wait till everyone’s gone to bed and curl up with blankets on the couch by myself and watch a movie. Here are my first three adaptations of the year. I also saw The Revenant in theater, but I haven’t read the book, so I’ll spare you the Leo gifs.

Emma (1996)

  • The book: I read Emma for the 200th anniversary in late 2015, and for the second time that year, I started a “reread” to find I’d never read the original at all. It was a delightful, cozy read, though nowhere near my favourite Austen; the stakes are simply too low. Emma doesn’t care about getting married until the very end (uh, spoiler) so her marriage plot is kind of boring. I would love to revisit Emma and Knightly a few years into their marriage and co-habitation with finicky Mr. Woodhouse. I got the feeling Knightly didn’t think about what he was agreeing to. My reading experience was heightened by two blog events: Dolce Bellezza’s Read Along and Sarah Emsley’s Emma in the Snow, which is still going strong, and features guest posts by experts about food, urban planning, and why Mr. Knightley is not a super creep, to name just a few.
  • The movie: It’s a very literal interpretation of the book. It was boring, but pleasantly so, just like the book. I’m pretty sure they added the archery scene with Emma and Mr. Knightly just to get the shot of Emma aiming her bow and arrow for the poster. Apart from that, there are no real surprises or innovations.emmaarrow
  • The casting: I don’t mind when an actor doesn’t look the way I imagined, but I am a stickler for ages. Emma is twenty years old, and Gwyneth Paltrow (who I love, but can only think of as Goopy Paltrow thanks to dlisted) was 24 when the movie came out. Harriet is seventeen and Toni Collette was 24 as well. I don’t know if we are told Frank Churchill’s age, but certainly he should be older than Emma. Ewan McGregor is older than Goopy, but just barely. Everyone looked too old to my eyes. I read Emma as a teenage story, though that might just be me comparing the text to Clueless.

Anna Karenina (2012)

  • The book: I read AK many years ago. I have an Oprah’s Book Club edition, because before blogging, I didn’t know that was gross. I don’t remember a lot about it, so it didn’t make a huge impression.
  • The movie: I loved it. The costumes, the music, the stage/backstage framing, Keira, and Matthew Mcfayden especially. It didn’t matter how faithful it was to the book (not that I’d remember) because it clearly wasn’t meant to be. My only gripe is that they didn’t make this movie years ago, when Jude Law could’ve played hot Vronksy instead of the crotchety husband. I mean:
  • The casting: see gripe above re. Vronsky casting. As for Anna, she is 28 in the book, and Keira was 27 when it came out. Vronsky’s age felt right; Aaron Taylor-Johnson is five years younger than Keira. Mr. Karenin is supposed to be about twenty years older than Anna, and Jude Law is only about thirteen years older than Keira, but their age difference felt okay. My favourite actor was Matthew Mcfayden as the patriarch of the first unhappy family we meet. I liked him here just as much as in P&P.

In Her Shoes (2005)

  • The book: Read last month for Franzen in FebruaryIn Her Shoes is my third Weiner novel and middling among books that are themselves pretty middling. It wasn’t as good as Good in Bed, but it was better than super-boring Fly Away Home (though FAH will always have a place in my heart for allowing me to write this.) IHS starts with a tired premise (one sister is a frumpy harpy, the other is a good-time girl, will they ever learn to accept one another) but Weiner takes a few risks and explores some interesting territory with respect to class and consent in the beginning. It never really goes anywhere though. After a bizarre middle section in which the messed-up sister grifts her way through a Princeton dorm, and the serious sister quits practicing law in favour of dog walking, which has no impact on her yuppie lifestyle, everyone ends up exactly where you knew they would.
  • The movie:  Apart from some questionable casting (see below), the movie is much tighter than the book, doing away with the middle section, but still giving us Maggie’s redemption through literature. I don’t know what it says about me that I preferred Maggie to learn to love literature from an old man than to learn it herself. Apparently Weiner was inspired by Push by Sapphire (also a movie, Precious) which is just… look, that’s going to be a WHOLE other blog post. Let’s just say that I will never forget reading Push and I have already forgotten a lot of In Her Shoes.
  • The casting: Age is not an issue this time, but Rose (Toni Collette) is supposed to be overweight, and this is played up in a couple of important scenes. In one of these, Maggie (Cameron Diaz) calls Rose a “fat pig” to which Rose scoffs “that’s the best you can do? You’re my sister,” just before their estrangement. In the movie, it’s a bizarre moment, because Rose is not fat. Both actresses still manage to rock this scene. The male leads were quite a bit more attractive then they seemed to be in the book, and, strangely, the sassy black friend becomes a cynical white friend.


    Spot the “fat sister”


*My most memorable Blockbuster & Chill was Reservoir Dogs, on my second date with a guy I met online. Reader, I married him.



  1. Naomi

    I like that you included the casting – I hate it when the ages and general looks aren’t right. And, I love “pleasantly boring”. That’s the perfect way to describe certain books.
    I can imagine that AK would make a better movie than book (in my opinion, anyway). I found the book kind of boring and predictable, but the movie is probably more condensed, with better eye candy than what I had in my head while reading the book (I imagined most of the men to have too many clothes on and too much hair and kind of sweaty all the time- why? I don’t know!!).

  2. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    “I have an Oprah’s Book Club edition, because before blogging, I didn’t know that was gross” – Haha!!

    I’ve only read and watched In Her Shoes, but it’s been years since both, but I remember really loving them both. But knowing me, that’s not really that surprising is it? 😉 I think my *only* issue with the casting in In Her Shoes (besides the weight issue) is, Colette and Diaz look nothing alike! (Am I the only one who thinks this?) Not that sisters HAVE to look alike, but still.

    • lauratfrey

      In Her Shoes was an enjoyable movie, and the book was good right up till the part where I simply couldn’t suspend belief anymore (the dogwalking thing) – I enjoyed both more than I thought I would!

  3. ebookclassics

    I love so many things about this post, but Goopy Paltrow comes in at #1! Actors playing younger characters doesn’t bother me, as I feel it is the norm. I also enjoyed comparing how moody Matthew McFayden is in P&P to how lively he was in AK. I loved him in both roles and even with a moustache. I noticed no mention of Jeremy Northam in Emma. Thoughts?

    • lauratfrey

      I didn’t even now it was Matthew McFayden till I was researching on IMDB, the mustache threw me off. Yeah, Jeremy Northam does nothing for me. I think of him as Sir Thomas Moore from The Tudors 🙂

  4. TJ @ MyBookStrings

    I have to confess that Toni Collette will always be Muriel (or Mariel) to me. She was so perfect in Muriel’s Wedding that I always have trouble seeing her in different roles. “Pleasantly boring” is the perfect way to describe Emma, in my opinion. I hope to finally be able to curl up on the couch all by myself and watch Little Women over Easter break.

  5. Pingback: 2016 Book to Movie Challenge – Late March Check-In and Book Prize! | ebookclassics
  6. jessicabookworm

    I watched this Emma adaptation and while it was amusing I wasn’t a huge fan of the casting. Plus I am totally in love with the BBC’s 2009 adaptation 🙂 I would also like to see Anne Karenina, especially now I know Matthew Macfadyen is in it 😀

  7. Bookrock

    “*My most memorable Blockbuster & Chill was Reservoir Dogs, on my second date with a guy I met online. Reader, I married him.”
    Spat my coffee out at this. Just perfect.

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