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Review: Persuasion (2022 Film)

Release Date: July 15, 2022 (Netflix
Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Henry Golding,  Mia Mckenna-Bruce, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Lydia Rose Bewley, Richard E. Grant, Yolanda Kettle amongst others.
Directed by Carrie Cracknell
Written by Ron Bass & Alice Victoria Winslow (and of course Jane Austen)
Rating:C. Just….no. The cinematography is delightful but the script…

I will start with the positive.  This film has amazing cinematography.  The locations look amazing, I enjoy the costumes, though I’m not always sure its not anachronistic at times.  The actors all appear to be talented, although not always fit for the part they play. I love the fact that this film is not a bunch of white people.

Now for the not so positive.  This film was not Persuasion.  Dakota Johnson did a great job with Anne – just not Anne Elliot.  Anne Elliot is one of the more reserved of Austen’s heroines, not unlike Elinor Dashwood.  She keeps to herself, has a sense of decorum, and a loving nature. This Anne is judgmental of her family, blurts things out that original Anne would be mortified by,  and overall is a lot less put together.

Mary is a more aggravating version of herself and mentions things that wouldn’t be terms for about a hundred years.  No one in the 1810s would be calling themselves an empath or talking about their doctor telling them to do gratitude lists.  Psychology wasn’t really a developed science yet.  I always saw Mary as a hypochondriac more then a narcissist, but I will let them go with that. The actress did a fine job with it.

I haven’t seen Cosmo Jarvis in anything, but this was definitely not the part for him.  His Wentworth seemed frankly colorless, as if he could easily be substituted by another character.

Lady Russell was a lot more…liberal I would say then her book counterpart, but by far the most like her book persona then the three above. The other characters more ore less seem to be similar to their book personas with a tweak here or there.  But the weird instances of modern sensibilities and slang still throw me off.  And what happened to Harville’s disability?

Persuasion happens to be my favorite novel of Austen’s, and I’ve watched pretty much any film adaptation I come across.  I even read various adaptations of the novel, some of which are even modern adaptions.  The main point of an adaption is to keep the spirit of the book, to have the characters recognizable even if they are slightly different.  Frankly I feel that despite many of the events of the book happen in this film and its fairly accurate to that, the overall spirit of the film is…not Persuasion.

Mostly I blame the script.  Their attempt to make things seem more relatable has them using terminology and slang that wouldn’t be in vogue for centuries.  How somehow they managed to write a scene involving both “You must retrench” and “If you are a 5 in London, you are a 10 in Bath” boggles my mind. If they had wanted to do a modern adaptation, they could have done so. Many people have and I still would have watched it. But they kept it in the period and then expected us to not cringe when famous lines are butchered by modern slang and sentiment (“We are worse then strangers – we are exes” for example).

Honestly, I can only hope that this film makes people more curious about Austen, and that they will read Persuasion or watch one of the much better adaptations (personally I like the Sally Hawkins one) and find out the real character of Anne, Frederick and the others.

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