‘Persuasion’: Review | Reviews | Screen
Dir. Carrie Cracknell. Great Britain. 2022. 109 minutes
It’s not hard to figure out the recipe that resulted in Netflix Persuasion arrives half-baked from the streamer’s busy oven. Take one goal off Ignorant. The role of an American actress as the lead role (Dakota Johnson). Turn Jane Austen’s most mature heroine into a Bridget Jones, take red wine from the bottle and wink at the camera. Filter it all through a Regency Britain coming straight from Bridgerton. Shake, too hard, and try not to creep when the cake collapses. So go ahead and try again, why not? – there is already a Searchlight customization of Persuasion waiting in the wings with Sarah Snook playing Anne Elliot.
Anne herself, with her constant winks at the camera and bad jokes about Agamemnon, quickly becomes a big problem, despite Johnson’s soft appeal
British theater director Carrie Cracknell makes her debut with a film adaptation credited to Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow which Netflix will release in limited cinemas in the UK on July 8 before global streaming on July 15. The team has taken liberties with the text, turning Regency Bath and Lyme Regis into a multi-racial society straight from Amando Ianucci’s David Copperfield and shot it all in a peppy color palette with casual costume and hair in a bid on Bridgerton market. None of this is bad on paper: Austen should get a chance with the Instagram generation. But the frozen expression on the romantic lead Cosmo Jarvis’ face throughout the speeches louder than any review. (He can relax: one of the few things that can be said about this movie with certainty is that it will be forgotten quickly.)
“It is often said that if you are a fiver in London, you are a ten in Bath,” says one of the characters in a world where people put smiley faces on letters and make “playlists” of notes. A hangover Anne Elliott (Johnson) breaks the fourth wall from virtually the first minute as she pours a bottle of red wine, endures a hangover during breakfast and introduces her intolerable family (her vain father played by Richard E. Grant is one of the film’s highlights). She is still devastated after being persuaded to give up her one true love Frederick Wentworth (Jarvis) eight years earlier. He was poor at the time, her clan was snobbish, and her godmother Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird, jumped over from David Copperfield) was set against him. Now he’s back, and he’s loaded.
Even those who are relatively new to Jane Austen will realize that many jealous siblings, misunderstandings, misunderstandings, overheard conversations during trips in the country, afternoon tea, dances in country halls and trips to Bath will follow before anything is resolved. Unfortunately, not only is Anne Elliot’s family unbearable, she herself, with her constant winking at the camera and bad jokes about Agamemnon, is also quickly becoming a major problem, despite Johnson’s soft appeal. This makes it all a rather rocky road to several marriage ceremonies implicit in an Austen adaptation, as best proven in Ang Lees Reason and feelings (and how much could an actress bitten by Emma Thompson have changed the fortunes of this film? We will never know, since the cast here was for reasons other than suitability for the role of Anne Elliott; one of Austen’s more mature and interesting characters, and the last heroine she wrote).
Efforts have obviously been made on the technical aspects of this work, and the fact that the costume and production design do not fit in well is not the fault of the individual departments. The kind of dialogue written here is going to rattle any viewer out of an appreciation of their efforts. Maybe it always looked bad on paper, after all. The audience may be less than convinced.
Production companies: MRC / Bisous Pictures, Mad Chance / Forth & Twenty Eighth
Worldwide distribution: Netflix
Screenplay: Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, based on the new by Jane Austen
Producers: Andrew Lazar, Christina Weiss Lurie
Cinematography: Joe Anderson
Production design: John Paul Kelly
Editing: Pam Scott
Music: Stuart Earl
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Richard E. Grant, Henry Golding, Ben Bailey-Smith, Yolanda Kettle, Nia Towle, Izuka Hoyle