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.

Thoughts On the Persuasion Trailer

If I were to rank Jane Austen‘s novels, Persuasion would be on the top of my list. This story of second chances is one that over 200 years later still hits readers in the heart and sends a few tears down our cheeks.

The trailer for the newest adaptation of the book was released earlier this week.

The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. For those unaware, the plot is as follows: eight years before the book starts Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth were young, in love, and newly engaged. She was persuaded to end their relationship due to his lack of status and income. Cut to the present and Anne is still single, still hurting from her decision. Wentworth is back in her life. He is a war hero, wealthy, and considered to be a catch. He is also still bitter from their breakup.

I would love to say that I am jumping for joy, but I have a few reservations. I am going to try to keep my concerns at bay because this is only the trailer. Trailers don’t always match up with the full movie.

  1. The dialogue in the scenes that we see so far seems to be loosely taken from the original text. Maybe it’s the Janeite in me, but I would prefer the wording to be as it is in the novel. To paraphrase her brilliant writing (especially in a reboot set in the Regency era) could be seen as a shanda (disgrace).
  2. The casting of Dakota Johnson as Anne. I have nothing against Johnson. I have a bias against American actors playing lead characters in Austen adaptations. It goes back to the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 Emma. Her portrayal of the character rubbed me the wrong way. But who knows, maybe Johnson will prove me wrong.
  3. Her hair should not be down unless it is either the beginning or the end of the day. Only young girls wore their hair loose. By the time they got to their mid to late teens, their hair was up. On a side note, that was my only beef with Sanditon. Charlotte Heywood’s (Rose Williams) hair should have been up.
  4. It comes off a little too rom-com-like. I like a romantic comedy as much as the next person, but Persuasion is not and has never been one. To turn this story into a rom-com is a double shanda and sure to turn off the fanbase.

On the upside, we see the early romance between Anne and Frederick. In previous film versions, the audience is only told about this experience.

That being said, I am willing to have an open mind and not condemn the film before it is released.

Persuasion will drop on Netflix on July 15th.

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Recipe for Persuasion: A Novel Book Review

No one goes through life without regrets. It is part of the human experience.

Recipe for Persuasion, (based on the Jane Austen novel, Persuasion)by Sonali Dev, was published last year.

Chef Ashna Raje has a lot on her plate. She is trying to ensure that her late father’s beloved restaurant lives to see another day. Her overbearing and emotionally distant mother, Shobi, is trying to control her life. Out of sheer desperation, Ashna signs up for the reality cooking competition, Cooking with the Stars.

What could only make a bad situation worse is being partnered with Rico Silva, the recently retired superstar soccer player. He is also her ex-boyfriend from high school/first love.

Rico is not happy that he will be working with Ashna and is determined to prove that he has moved on. Their first meeting after twelve years does not go well. As much as Rico and Ashna would prefer to work with someone else, their chemistry is undeniable. But with too many unanswered questions about the past and unspoken feelings, is there even a possibility of re-kindling their relationship?

Among the six completed books by Austen, Persuasion is the hardest for modern writers to replicate. The past romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth creates a narrative complication that is unique to this particular novel.

That being said, it is not the worst JAFF (Jane Austen fanfiction) that I have ever read. Though the middle of the novel is a bit slow, I like that the author gave the reader insight into both Rico and Shobi’s perspectives, fleshing out the overall story. Austen only gives her readers a short time to see the world through Wentworth’s eyes, the rest of the story belongs to Anne.

I also liked the insight into traditional Indian culture, which I suspect is not much different than other traditional cultures.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

I’m Willing to Give Modern Persuasion a Chance

Oscar Wilde once said the following:

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

For two centuries, writers have tried to capture the magic in Jane Austen‘s novels. She is one of those authors whose writing seems easy to replicate. But, upon further inspection, the discovery often is that it is much more difficult than it seems to be.

Yesterday, the trailer for Modern Persuasion was released. It is basically the modern rom-com version of Persuasion. Playing the 21st century Anne Elliott and Captain Frederick Wentworth are Alicia Witt and Shane McRae.

I’m willing to give this movie a shot. However, two things immediately come to mind. The first is that the title feels incredibly lazy. It’s as if it was the working title for the first draft of the screenplay that the writers didn’t bother changing. It is possible to create a modern Jane Austen adaptation and be creative with the title.

The second is that based strictly on the trailer, it feels like the standard romantic comedy. Granted, the trailer is not the move in its entirety. But, the only initial connection so far that the film is based on an Austen novel is the mention of the Laconia (scroll down to the bottom of the page in the link for the reference).

Only time will tell if the film is a success or a failure. Either way, it will be a point of contention for the Janeite community for years to come.

By the Book: A Novel Book Review

Among the Janeite community, Persuasion regularly lands on the top spot or near the top spot when it comes to ranking Jane Austen‘s six published novels. The story of love, loss and second chances has resonated with readers for more than 200 years for a reason.

By the Book: A Novel was published last year.  Written by Julie Sonneborn, the novels follows the story of Anne Corey. Anne has a lot on her plate: a book to write to ensure tenure at the university where she is employed, her aging father whose health is fading and a new boyfriend who is her college’s the writer-in-residence. The last thing she wants or needs is her ex-fiance, Adam Martinez. Recently hired as the new President of her college, Adam’s presence is a reminder of what was and what may never be again.

Anne is trying to focus on what she needs to do, but Adam’s constant presence brings up old feelings. Will Anne and Adam have a second chance at love or is their relationship fated to be referred to as past tense?

I really enjoyed this novel. Ms. Sonneborn successfully marries Persuasion with the modern world. Anne Corey is still Anne Elliot and Adam Martinez is still Frederick Wentworth. From my perspective, the best thing about this book was that I knew what was coming in terms of the narrative, but I was still surprised by the end of the story.

I recommend it.

 

 

Thoughts On the 2018 JASNA AGM

*Warning: this post contains slight spoilers about Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Read at your own risk if you have not read the books or seen any of the adaptations.

For many Janeites, the highlight of their fall the JASNA AGM. It is an opportunity to spend a weekend with hundreds of other Janeites, immerse themselves in everything that pertains to Jane Austen and forget about the rest of the world for three days.

This year’s AGM was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The theme was Persuasion and the title was 200 Years Of Constancy And Hope.

For many Jane Austen fans, reading Persuasion is a bittersweet experience. We love this novel and its main characters, Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Unlike her previous novels, there is a mature feel to the work, a what if question when it comes to love, mistakes and second chances. Anne is the oldest of the Austen heroines. She is in her late 20’s while the other heroines are either in their late teens or early 20’s. For his part, Frederick Wentworth is unlike any of Austen’s other heroes. He has had to pull himself up by the figurative bootstraps instead of being born into a wealthy family and automatically inheriting a fortune. He also feels, to me, at least more human than let’s say, Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Darcy is almost like a too good to be true Prince in a fairy tale, a rich man who learns to tame his pride to win the affection/heart of the lower born woman that he loves. Frederick Wentworth is also proud, but he learns to understand Anne’s feelings over the course of the novel. He also realizes that their separation was not simply a one sided separation. His anger kept him from returning to Anne and renewing their relationship at an earlier juncture in their lives.

While every AGM has it moments, there are two of them that made this AGM amazing.

In 1995, a big screen version of Persuasion hit theaters. In the film, Amanda Root played Anne and Ciarian Hinds played Captain Wentworth. Attendees this past weekend were blessed to have Miss Root join us for part of the weekend.

 

She is gracious, warm, down to earth and I think she was a little surprised by the reaction from those in attendance.

There are many who have written about Jane Austen. There are few who can write with warmth, humor and speak to the reader without the academic feel that comes with the subject of Jane Austen. John Mullan is one of those people.

In this crowd, he is a rock star. His book, What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, is one of my favorite books about Austen and her novels.

And, as usual, the high point of the AGM is the ball on Saturday night. While not everyone dresses up and dance, it’s fun to do so if one wishes.

All in all, it was an amazing AGM and I look forward to next year in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Favorite Austen Letter

*-Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. If you are in the middle of reading either book and you have found my post, the story will be spoiled.

Letter writing seems to be a dying form.

Technology allows us to receive information in an instant. But letter writing in it’s older forms, creates a sense of excitement when receiving a letter.

In Jane Austen’s time, letter writing was both an art and a basic form of written communication.

Her novels are full of letters.

But there are two letters that are crucial to the plots of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

The plot of Pride and Prejudice revolves around the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

The crucial letter in Pride and Prejudice is exactly in the middle of the book and is a turning point in the story. Elizabeth Bennet has just turned down the very unexpected marriage proposal from Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Up until that point she has only spent time with him in limited social situations and finds him to be, well, a snob. The letter changes everything.

I’m going to let Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen take it from there.

The lead couple in Persuasion is Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years before the novel starts, they were briefly engaged.  Anne broke off the engagement  at the recommendation of her godmother, Lady Russell. In the beginning of the novel, the relationship between Anne and Frederick is naturally strained.   It appears that the Captain is ready to marry Louisa Musgrove, the sister of Anne’s brother in law. Then Anne gets a letter that totally changes everything.

Enough with my words, I’m going to let Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones finish the story for you.

Being that I cannot choose which letter I prefer, I will let you decide.

 

 

Persuasion 1995 Vs. Persuasion 2007

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s final novel, published posthumously with Northanger Abbey.  It is her most mature novel. There is sadness and a sweetness to the novel. The question of what if pervades the novel. What if we had a second chance at true love? What if the love of your life, the one that got away, came back? Do you take the chance at happiness or do you let it slip through your fingers once more?

As I have done with the comparisons of Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice, I will be comparing the 1995 Persuasion and 2007 Persuasion.

1995 Persuasion

Cast: Anne Elliot (Amanda Root), Captain Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), Sir Walter Elliot (Corin Redgrave)

  • Pro’s: This adaptation is beautiful and spot on to the text of the novel. Every actor is perfect for his or her part.  Redgrave as Sir Walter is Austen’s metro sexual, is cringe worthy as Anne’s only surviving parent. Root, as Anne is brilliant. Shy and retiring at first, but slowly coming into her own and learning to trust her instincts. Hinds, as Captain Wenworth, is stubborn and angry, but slowly looses his anger and starts to remember why he and Anne fell in love in the first place.
  • Cons: None.

2007 Persuasion 

Cast: Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins), Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones), Sir Walter Elliot (Anthony Stewart Head)

  • Pro’s: Hawkins and Penry Jones were well cast in their parts and age appropriate. Stewart Head (Giles to my fellow Buffy The Vampire Slayer Fans) is as cringe worthy as his predecessor.
  • Cons: As with some adaptations, some aspects of the story line or some characters are edited or removed completely.  As much as I love the scene where Anne runs through Bath after receiving the letter, it would have not been appropriate for a well bred young lady to run as she did.

And the winner is…the 1995 Persuasion, but not by much.

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