Persuasion Movie Review

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. There are some opportunities that are firmly in the past. Then there are others that do come again. We can either let it slip through our fingers or go for it.

The new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of Persuasion was released last week on Netflix.

Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) gave up the love of her life eight years ago. The daughter of a minor aristocratic family, she was convinced that Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a poor sailor was not good enough for her. Now in her late twenties, Anne is still single and pining for what could have been. Frederick has returned to her circle. He is now wealthy, a respected war hero, and a catch, according to the eligible young ladies.

Will they be able to make peace with the past and have the life they were meant to have, or will they once more go their separate ways?

This version is not all bad (well, it’s mostly bad). I loved the color-blind casting. The best performances in the film came by way of Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. Johnson’s accent was not bad and she had decent chemistry with Jarvis.

The main problem is the lack of tension. What makes the narrative is the emotional wall between Anne and Frederick that slowly crumbles over the course of the narrative. That wall came down a little too quickly for my taste. The other problem is that it was turned into a rom-com (which it is not) and the use of modern slang. By the time we get to the letter, the buildup that would normally be there is a pittance of what it should be.

While I understand that the filmmakers wanted to make it palatable to non-Austen fans, they stripped away too much of the original text. This Anne Elliot is closer to Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. Personality-wise, Anne is a complete 180 from both Elizabeth and Emma. I admire Elizabeth and I get a chuckle from Emma, but Anne I get.

If I were to rank the various adaptations and Austen-adjacent filmed IPs, this Persuasion would be second to the bottom of the list. The only one that is worse is Austenland.

Do I recommend it? Not really. Just stick to either the 95 or 07 version. Trust me, you are not missing much. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the worst films I have seen this year.

Persuasion is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The anniversary of Austen’s passing was yesterday. She would be spinning in her grave if she saw this movie.

The Perfect Austen Fan Satire

A fan satire is created on a very fine line. If it is done properly, it  is Lost In Austen. If it is not done properly, it is Austenland. I’m not going to talk further about Austenland, because it is simply not worth the effort.

Amanda Price (Jemima Roper) is a Janeite. She finds solace from her job and her less than Darcy like boyfriend (who proposes marriage drunk using the tab from his beer can as an engagement ring) by reading Pride and Prejudice.  She finds Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom and they switch places.  Amanda soon finds that she has irrevocably altered the plot of Pride and Prejudice and must find a way to set things right.

I love this miniseries. The in-jokes are there, the characters we know and love (or hate), are also there. Hugh Bonneville and Alex Kingston are perfectly cast (and age appropriate) as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. We even learn Mr. Bennet’s first name. Elliot Cowan is smoldering and sexy as Fitzwilliam Darcy.

This is the perfect Austen satire.  I highly recommend this mini series to every Janeite.

Fanboys: A Satire For All

In 2009, the perfect fan satire movie was introduced: Fanboys.

In 1998, months before the premiere of Star Wars, Episode I, a group of friends go on a road trip. Their mission is to sneak into George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and steal the rough cut of the movie.

This movie is hilarious. It’s not only a satire of the Star Wars Fandom, but of the science fiction fandom as a whole. The characters are what an outsider might see as a science fiction fan: a nerdy guy or girl who lives with their parents, whose sole focus in life is their fandom. As a Star Wars fan, I knew who these characters were without cringing, I was able to laugh at them. I understood their obsession. I was able to quote the movies along with them. And I loved the cameos, especially the ones from Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.

Unlike other fan satire (Austenland, I’m looking at you), Fanboys is one of funniest movies in the past five years. Underneath the stereotypes of the scifi fan, there is heart to these characters and a solid friendship that keeps the story going.

This is a must see.

I Don’t Want To Visit Austenland: An Austenland Book Review

I think it’s safe to say that Jane Austen is an icon. Almost 200 years after her death, her books are still staples of libraries and bookstores. Hollywood and modern literature has given us numerous adaptions of her novels over the years.

On one level, it seems easy to re-create her writing. Put the characters in a Georgian era England with Georgian era clothing (or if it is a modern reboot, referencing her characters and story lines), creating an Austen-like story and it seems that success is imminent. But it’s not that easy.

At first glance, Shannon Hale’s novel, Austenland  seems interesting. Jane Hayes, a single American woman in her early 30’s, is obsessed and finds solace from her job and a string of failed relationships by re-reading Pride and Prejudice and re-watching the 1995 miniseries of the book. When her aunt dies, Jane receives an inheritance of an all expense paid trip to Austenland, a vacation where one immerses one self in everything Jane Austen.

I saw the movie last year, it was one the of the worst movies I have ever seen. The book is just as bad.

The problem with the book and especially the movie is that the main character is exactly what someone who does not get the nuances and in-jokes of her novels, is exactly what she appears to be. She is single and so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Fitzwilliam Darcy that she is incapable of finding real, long lasting relationships.  It’s as bad as conjuring up an image of Star Wars or Star Trek fan, a nerdy looking person living in their parents house with no relationships other than their immediate family who spends most or all of their time re-watching the movies or the TV series. This book makes me embarrassed to be a Janeite.

Don’t visit Austenland.

Austenland- For Austen Lovers Only- Maybe

This weekend, I was part of a group shown a preview of the upcoming movie Austenland.

Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a 30 something single American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and more specifically, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. On a whim, she spends her life savings on a Jane Austen theme park run by Mrs. Waddlesbrook (Jane Seymour), hoping to meet the perfect English gentleman. Joining her is Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King).

The gentleman are actors, paid to give participants the full Austen experience. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), Martin (Bret McKenzie), Colonel Andrews (James Callis) and Captain George East (Ricky Whittle).

This movie is based on a book, which I have not read, but some of my friends have said the book is good.

As a rom-com based on Austen’s novels, it certainly appeals to the Janeite in me. Anyone who knews me to a certain degree or has read this blog knows that I am a very open and proud Janeite. But this movie creates stereotypes that are far from reality. As one of my friends put it, the first 15 minutes are extremely unrealistic. As much as I adore and appreciate the 1995 P&P miniseries, I do not have a life-size Colin Firth Mr. Darcy cutout in my home.

The bright spots in this movie are Jennifer Coolidge who has the funniest lines and JJ Feild who looks good (and I mean looks really, really good) in regency era clothes.

That being said, this movie is not good. It panders to the Janeite fandom community and to women in general, reducing what could have been a very good, very smart and very funny homage to Miss Austen into a predictable and stale rom com. The ending, even as predictable as it is, is too predictable. I’m glad I saw it before it comes to theaters, it is not worth going to the movies for.

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