It’s time to put down on paper my feelings about Persuasion, the Netflix adaptation. I won’t call it an adaptation, that would be an insult to Jane Austen. Let’s call it a movie that features the same names and the occasional similarity to a book written by Jane Austen. And if you can put aside the source material and take it as a Regency love story, you might actually enjoy this—I could not.
And thus, I did not enjoy this movie. But first, what did I like about it? Well, I did love the costumes. They were vibrant and stunning—literally appealing to the eyes. I wanted to wear one. I wanted my friends to wear the dresses. Maybe I wanted us all to do a better job of turning the book into a movie than this production did. But I digress. I loved the cinematography. Amazing. The world was brought to life with color—from well-lit ballrooms, lush green grass, and estate homes that were warm and welcoming with light and heart. It was a pleasure to watch.
That was it folks for the positives. Well except for Henry Golding—he was smashing in his role and is well suited to regency attire.
And now what I didn’t like about it. Truthfully, I don’t quite know where to start. Well, I do. Anne Elliot is played by Dakota Fanning. I’ve never seen Dakota is anything—I refuse to watch or read Fifty Shades of Gray—and she’s not a bad actress. It’s not her fault that the writer’s replaced the personality of Anne Elliot with a cross between Bridget Jones (the movie was awesome) and possibly Elizabeth Bennet (who is a fantastic heroine.)
Anne Elliot is a quiet, wallflower. She doesn’t like to make waves and she wants her family to remain respectable without the embarrassing airs and graces they put on (they can’t manage that bit) and she regrets being persuaded to walk away from the man she loved—still loves.
And because of this, Anne is a hard character to bring to life on screen. Coupled with that is that the book has lots of internal thoughts from Anne about how she feels, and what she thinks of herself and others. So, I understand getting the character to break the fourth wall and talk to the camera—it’s a way to get inside Anne’s head. It also got very irritating, very quickly.
I guess what shocked me most was that they didn’t just make Anne more confident and vocal—which might have been fine if they’d handled that right. Not all wallflowers will let people walk all over them. Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean your weak. But they made Anne silly, a closet alcoholic, immature, not wise or calm—all the things she’s meant to be. In fact, when Captain Wentworth exclaims how calm and wise Anne is, I had to pause the movie and yell at the TV:
‘You can’t say she’s calm or wise when she hasn’t shown any of those qualities! That’s called lazy writing.’
Yes, I yelled at the TV and I kept watching. They changed the core of Anne’s character so much that she was not just unrecognizable, she wasn’t Anne at all. And when the movie rests on this character, there’s nowhere else but down to go.
Briefly, the actor playing Captain Wentworth, Cosmo Jarvis was fine. Good looking enough, but again it was the writing that let him down. Captain Wentworth didn’t have much to do or say—he was boring. The chemistry between him and Anne was lackluster. I didn’t care what happened to them—that’s a really bad sign in a romance movie when talking about the main couple.
The rest of the cast was fine. Amusing in some ways, irritating in others.
Would I watch this again?
No, not unless I’m interested in a regency Bridget Jones’ Diary—and I’m not.