Review of Persuasion (2022) | Film
Based on Jane Austen’s 1817 novel, Anne Elliot (Johnson) still struggles to come to terms with the end of her relationship with Frederick Wentworth (Jarvis). Now faced with her return, Anne must navigate the advances of her handsome cousin (Golding) or hold her ground for her old flame.
One of the many fabrications of the Netflix version Persuasion is a scene in which our heroine, Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson), describes a dream. In it, Anne finds herself caught in the arms of an octopus before realizing that the tentacles belong to her — that she’s “sucking my own face.” One wonders if such a phrase would ever have crossed the lips of Austen, who occupies a prominent place in the pantheon of great English writers.
The description of Anne’s hentai fantasy, as well as the discussions of “exes” and “tens,” border on sacrilege. It’s an insult to credit this movie as an adaptation of Austen Persuasion, because beyond the names of characters and places, the screenplay, by Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, bears only the most superficial resemblance to this work. What Netflix has created is a version of Austen for the Bridgerton viewer, a candid reality show dressed in Regency clothing.
At the heart of this bastardy is Dakota Johnson, who casts Anne as a modern, melancholic bitch to the Flea bag (note the constant glances at the camera). His Anne drinks red wine from the bottle, somehow listens to Beethoven in her bedroom, and uses the millennial-modern vernacular in a squeaky-quick way.
It’s a shame that such esteemed actors have to work with this Mills & Boon version of Austen’s work.
Son Wentworth finds the epitome of charisma hard to find in Cosmo Jarvis. It pales next to the effervescent charms of Henry Golding as Anne’s second cousin and suitor, whose presence is as refreshing as the sea breeze blowing off the coast of Lyme Regis. He appears to be the only person on set to actually read a word from Austen.
Director Carrie Cracknell, making her film debut after a long theatrical career, seems content enough to have her cast standing or sitting. Although there are some pleasant shots of British beaches, it’s a shame that the final stages of Persuasion neglect to show more of Bath’s architecture. Not using Austen’s former hometown properly seems lazy, another misunderstanding of the material.
Cracknell said she wanted a more diverse cast than previous adaptations, and it’s good to see her bring a theatrical, colorblind cast to a period drama. Yet unlike Armando Iannucci The personal story of David Copperfieldfor example, which puts Dev Patel in the lead, non-white actors are uncomfortably relegated to the fringes of the set.
Among the supporting cast, Richard E. Grant appears to have mistaken Austen for Oscar Wilde in his pantomime portrayal of Anne’s father, while Nikki Amuka-Bird gets a much-reduced version of Lady Russell, who tours Europe as a cougar. . It’s a shame that such esteemed actors have to work with this Mills & Boon version of Austen’s work.
While the cast sets a long-awaited cinematic precedent, this version of Persuasion is anything but a ten – in Bath or elsewhere.