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Thursday, July 21, 2022

Persuasion 2022 - Jane Austen for the Instagram Generation

I thought I should jump in the bandwagon and mention my thoughts on the new Persuasion film on Netflix, starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliott. Having seen some screenshots, I didn't have high hopes for the film, but I decided to watch it through with an open mind and find both positives and negatives about the film. I always seem to revert back to the 1990s adaptations on Austen novels, preferring a more traditional true-to-the-book approach and struggled with the positive list to be honest, but I have made an effort! 

Here is a list of my 10 positive and 10 negative thoughts about the film: 


1) The cinematography is beautiful - the vivid colours, lighting, angles and handheld camera shots which make some scenes seem realistic. 

2) The landscapes are lovely, especially the dramatic seaside shots in Lyme regis that remind me of Sanditon. 

3) There are several nature scenes with quaint countryside shots, which I enjoyed. 

4)  The sets are gorgeous, with a lovely range of colourful decor and stunning wallpapers and furnishings. 

5) Most of the costumes are wonderful and several look authentic - with the exception of Anne Elliott's strange wardrobe and the lack of bonnets. 

6) I enjoyed the lively scenes where Anne plays with her little nephews and nieces. I imagine Jane Austen herself would have messed around like this with children! 

7) The plot follows Jane Austen's Persuasion quite closely (although some significant scenes and characters have been omitted/changed as below). 

8) Most of the acting is decent, and I particularly enjoyed the grumpy Mary Musgrove (Mia McKenna) and the charming William Elliott (Henry Golding). (I was disappointed with Richard E Grant's Sir Walter, however, as I was looking forward to an amazing performance by him). 

9) The film is entertaining and easy for a Jane Austen novice to follow. 

10)  Persuasion 2022 introduces Jane Austen to younger generations in a fun way so that youngsters can relate to the characters - think Instagram, TikTok, Fleabag. 

The cons (which do not end here): 

1) The overall feel of Persuasion changes here - the original feel of the book is somewhat sad, autumnal, reflecting on lost opportunities. 

2) In the book, Anne is described as past her bloom, plain and melancholy and only brightens up later in the book as she begins to realise that Captain Wentworth loves her after all. Dakota Johnson's Anne, on the other hand, is gorgeous, confident, fun-loving, sarcastic and an upbeat character - even ridiculous in places, as opposed to the sensible, mature Anne of the book. 

3) The film is oblivious of formal Regency manners and etiquette, which the upper class characters would certainly have abided by. 

4) The dialogue is not taken from the original and I miss Jane Austen's beautiful language and classic quotations in this - the language here is far too modern, with phrases such as 'in-laws', 'narcissist', 'electrifying', 'playlist', 'cappuccino', 'fart around' and 'out of my league' casually thrown in. The accents don't sound right either... 

5) Anne's strange costumes, modern makeup and hair are so out of place and distract from the rest of the characters, who are much more appropriately dressed. 

6) I did not enjoy the monologues, which I only tend to appreciate in Lovejoy - but each to their own in this case. 

7) Captain Wentworth lacks charisma. He is supposed to be the head of a ship and of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sailors, and would have to have had a strong presence to get to that position. Cosmo Jarvis' Wentworth looks dreamy and lethargic, as opposed to Ciaran Hinds' perfect rendition of the confident, charismatic captain who Anne looks up to. 

8) Period lifestyle details have been overlooked, such as in the swimming scene. Ladies of the gentry would access the water through a swimming machine to protect their modesty, as seen in Sanditon. 

9) Don't get me started on the rabbits, octopuses, 'wild wees' and Anne's drunkenness in this film!

10) Last, but not least, the plot moves too fast and a scene has been added in the middle of the film where Wentworth and Anne discuss their true feelings on the beach. Highly disappointing, as the story ought to be a slow burn, culminating in the intense letter scene at the end of the novel. 

In conclusion, if you watch Persuasion 2022 with the same mindset that you would have while watching Bridgerton, looking for easy entertainment, you might just enjoy it. The film certainly has its cringeworthy moments, but it is a quirky, modern take on a classic for the Instagram generation. 

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