Persuasion

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Psst!! Do you want to know a secret? The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is — instead of what you think it should be. This simple advice can be extrapolated to movie reviews too. Film adaptations based on a famous novel are often subjected to rigid preconceived demands. Persuasion is based on the work published in 1817 by Jane Austen. It was the last thing she wrote, and while not as famous as Emma, Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and Sensibility, the volume does have a maturity not found in her earlier texts.

Persuasion is a work about manners. A polite demeanor can be a facade for moral shortcomings. As such, the nuances of the time period are challenging to convey to a modern audience. Oh, but this reconstruction tries. Dakota Johnson stars as Anne Elliot, and Cosmo Jarvis portrays Captain Wentworth. Both are single and unattached. They were once engaged in the distant past, but Anne was encouraged by family and friends to end the relationship. They meet again after a seven-year separation, setting the scene for a second chance at love.

The story is set around a series of clumsy encounters. Anne and Frederick are clearly smitten, but their interactions are awkward. Director Carrie Cracknell affirms period detail and costumes, but not Jane Austen’s language. The dialogue — in a screenplay adapted by Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow — has been gently updated. “It’s often said if you’re a 5 in London, you’re a 10 in Bath.” Critics savaged this update for its modern sensibilities. Yet I did not find the expressions irksome. The reinvention of the language is subtle. I am forgiving of such things. Full disclosure. I have not read the book, so I do not have a slavish devotion to the original text.

Yet the saga — as presented here — is not compelling. Anne is frequently seen glugging back wine or breaking the fourth wall. She often looks directly into the camera to signal when she finds a character’s behavior preposterous. That approach might be endearing coming from Jim Halpert on the TV series The Office, but it doesn’t serve a 19th-century heroine in a Jane Austin novel. Furthermore, the erratic fluctuations of the characters’ desires make no sense. When potential suitor William Elliott (Henry Golding) capriciously redirects his flirtations to another woman at the end, it’s a baffling development that demands an explanation. I found the story entertaining in parts. Dakota Johnson — a high point in nearly every production — is an absolute delight. The overall chronicle, however, is less captivating.

07-15-22

10 Responses to “Persuasion”

  1. I think the only way to bring something as dated as this to life is via a left field director like Polanski or Lanthimos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I give it a pass. Not great but entertaining. The ending threw in so many changes that led to an obvious reconnection. I like Dakota too. 3 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Greg Skala Says:

    This doesn’t seem like a movie I’ll try to go see, but I thought your review was excellent. Great movie, review, and course reviews have a stand-alone worth and make for good reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Greg Skala Says:

    Oops. In my comment earlier today, I meant to say: Great movie, book, and course reviews have stand-alone worth. . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachel's Reviews Says:

    I wanted to like this so much but alas I could not

    Liked by 1 person

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