Netflix’s ‘Persuasion’ Review – Not For Austen Purists, But For Sad Girls
If I had based my feelings on Netflix Persuasion purely on Twitter talk and criticism, I think it was going to be much, much more glib and much…worse. The new adaptation of Jane Austen’s most mature and melancholy novel, starring Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis and Henry Golding, has been torn by critics and Twitter feeds for its use of things like modern language, jabs of curtain and Flea bag-esque fourth wall breaks. He’s been labeled everything from a cringe to a disaster. An official account said so killed Austen a second time. Relax! I loved Persuasion. If you don’t mind terribly, I’m going to skip the Austen stans holding their pearls and wallow with this sad little movie.
Perhaps the film’s biggest criticism is that Johnson as Anne doesn’t look or talk like an Austen-era heroine. Sure, Johnson’s Anne looks a bit like a time traveler who’s resigned to her fate, but Keira Knightley’s bangs were falling apart in 2005. Pride and Prejudice, too. Log on to Twitter and you’ll see screenshots of lines like “we’re worse than exes, we’re friends” and “now I’m single and thriving,” but in the actual context of the movie, they don’t. not sound eccentric. They look desperate, like someone trying to hide their sadness with an ironically basic Instagram caption. I don’t know the source material as well as Austen’s other books do, but the movie was still melancholic to me, which is the whole point.
I also don’t agree 100% that this movie is the “Flea bagification of Jane Austen”, but have those who say it forgotten that Flea bag is a depressing sight? When Johnson’s Anne frowns as she observes other young women shamelessly and successfully dumbing down to flirt with men, she doesn’t look sarcastic or superior but defeated. I really felt that! Have you been on a dating app lately? It’s dark here! Let me be deeply sad and indulge in the fantasy that I’m as beautiful as Johnson doing it, please.
PersuasionThe cast and supporting characters are also worth the price of admission. Captain Wentworth of Jarvis, Anne’s former and future love interest, has a pout so wide you could stand under it in the rain. Golding plays Mr. Elliott, Anne’s cousin (don’t get me started) and probably the most familiar “guy” recognizable to the casual Austen fan, the soft-spoken f*ckboy. Other characters are a bit more unique to this story. Lady Russell, played by Nikki Amuka-Bird, is a mentor – albeit one who did the titular persuasion – who genuinely cares about Anne and not just her social status. Mia McKenna-Bruce’s performance as Mary, Anne’s melodramatic sister, is hilarious. And Louisa (Nia Towle) is as crazy about boys as some of Austen’s other “little sister” types, but as considerate as Mary is self-centered. It’s really fun to spend time with these characters. Did you hear that? I said it was fun!
And not only that, there are some really strong scenes in this movie. There’s a good moment near the end where Captain Harville (Edward Bluemel) remarks to Anne that he feels conflicted about his late sister’s widow finding a new wife because she felt that his suffering continued. the memory of his living sister. It’s a complex moment that evokes the story’s themes of moving on, getting a second chance at love, and allowing yourself to be sad. It stuck with me. If people weren’t writing this movie because of a few jokes, they might enjoy scenes like this.
Like any Austen heroine, Persuasion has its flaws, mainly, IMO, in that it’s a bit tasteless. It’s not a completely modern adaptation like clueless and fire islandnor entirely engage in anachronistic language like other late period pieces, including Great and Dickinson. Winks to the audience follow one another, sometimes fading completely into the background. Director Carrie Cracknell is first and foremost a theater manager, and I wonder if this was a stage adaptation with the benefit of previews and live commentary, the tone might have chosen a side. However, like a modern-day romantic Austen lead, I like Persuasion quite as it is.
I understand the complaint that it seems like the movie is trying to be a cool English teacher stereotype by trying to make Anne seem “relatable” – but everything I’ve personally linked about Anne is from Johnson’s story and performance, not the text update. One thing I love about Anne, when it comes to romance, is that she knows who she’s in love with from the start. Fanny in mansfield park is also like that, but Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet (the two most suitable on-screen characters) dramatically ignore their own feelings. I don’t find that particularly relevant. But would it be awkward if “reaching children” was the reason behind the artistic choice? Hey, maybe, but not so much that it shouldn’t exist.
The vitriol against this movie is really getting old, because despite the reviews, it has some merit. It’s a vintage piece for those of us who aren’t waiting for pumpkin spice to be on the menu to listen. folklore (a large demographic group). It’s for driving in the suburbs and crying. It’s for those who are prone to self-sabotage and who stay awake spiraling to all the different ways things could have gone with a crush (another major demographic). This is a vintage piece for people who heard the word “cheugy” and shivered a bit because they were like: it could be me.
Books don’t go to bed at night dreaming of becoming movies when they grow up. They have already grown up. If you’re an Austen purist and can’t get past all of this, then feel free to skip this one. Find yourself another adaptation. Reread the book. I totally understand. I respect you! There are uh-Lots of things I’m a boring picky eater. But any adaptation, especially one in the public domain, should feel free to make big choices and controversial interpretations and not be a carbon copy of the book and not appeal to everyone. Where the hell did all those Austen girls learn to be so judgmental? ! If there was a fourth wall right now, I’d break it too and give you an epic, conniving look.
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