Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Persuasion

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s fifth novel. Published after her death, it is not as well known as some of her earlier works. It deserves to be. It is more mature and, I would argue, better written than anything else she wrote (OK, except Pride and Prejudice which cannot be improved on in any way).

Her heroine, Anne Elliot, is also more mature than Austen’s earlier ones. She is twenty-six and has already had her shot at love. Seven years ago, she fell in love with Frederick Wentworth but was “persuaded” by her family and friends that he did not have good enough prospects and so broke off their engagement. She has been pining for him ever since.

He comes back into her life and the story unfolds as they find themselves in each other’s company more and more often. This is Jane Austen. Do I need to tell you how it ends?

While I will always recommend the book first, over the years there have been four small screen adaptations. Two I recommend; two I do not.

Persuasion 1995 BBC2

Starring Amanda Root in her first leading role and CiarĂ¡n Hinds, this production was part of the 1995 Austenmania that included THE Pride and Prejudice and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. Although Persuasion is not as well known as either of them, it deserves to be. Some might argue the problem is that Hinds is neither Firth nor Rickman, but I digress…

This is the adaptation that sticks most closely to the novel. While there are some changes, they are minor and do not really affect the story in any real way. The characters speak lines lifted directly from the novel and the locations were actually filmed in Bath and Lyme, lending an unmistakable authenticity.

What I love most about this adaptation is the extras casting. The director uses many shots of ordinary people in the fields, on the ships, and in the towns. They look like real people, not actors dressed up, so I always get the feeling that it is real life happening as I watch.

I like this adaptation a lot. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen it. When I re-watched it for this article, I found myself quoting parts of it. Maybe I’ve seen it too often?

Persuasion 2007 ITV

Starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, this adaptation really doesn’t work. Trying to cram the entire story into 90 minutes means that whole sections are cut and speeches are put in the wrong scenes and said by the wrong people.

The filming is very nice. Again, Bath and Lyme are used to great effect and the costumes look like real clothes. The lighting is often gorgeous and candles are sometimes the only light source which really works.

The biggest problem, however, is the casting. Penry-Jones is much too pretty to have fought in navel battles; he simply does not look rugged enough. And, there is not enough chemistry between Hawkins and him to ignite anything.

I hate the final scene. If you know anything at all about Regency entail law, you know that Anne’s wedding present just couldn’t and wouldn’t happen. Rather mars the happily ever after. Give this one a miss.

Modern Persuasion 2020

There is a reason I had never heard of this modern take on the story until I found it searching for the above two. It is terrible. Truly awful. Among the worst rom-coms I have ever seen. Run from this one.

Persuasion 2022

When the trailer for this latest adaptation hit the internet, I thought the reaction was going to blow up the world wide web. Commenters were furious. Jane Austen’s story using modern language, modern sensibilities, and the heroine breaking the fourth wall? ’Twas not to be borne.

And, to be fair, it is all a bit odd and takes some getting used to. Your heroine, dressed in a Regency gown in her father’s estate, talking about a “playlist” while she shows you a bundle of sheet music is a bit jarring. But, the stroke of genius was hiring Dakota Johnson who manages to pull it off. I loved her as Anne from the start.

Add in Cosmo Jarvis and now I am really in. He is the perfect Wentworth, rough around the edges and weatherbeaten, but smart, kind, and funny. The chemistry between the two leads is explosive and there is one scene where he watches her swim in the sea that sent my heart racing madly.

There are some issues with this take on the original. For one, I think this approach would have worked much better with Elizabeth or Emma, both of whom are younger and more verbal than Anne. Anne is older, more mature, and much more quiet so sometimes the asides and the smirks seem out of character. But, once I got used to the changes and settled in for the ride, I enjoyed it.

So, you have four choices if you don’t want to read the book (which I highly recommend that you do). If you are able to get out of the book space, try the 2022 Netflix version and enjoy the ride. If, however, you just want the book to come to life, watch the 1995 version on Amazon.

ChrisB is Jane Austen's biggest fan especially when the resulting show includes Firth, Rickman, or Jarvis.

8 comments:

  1. ChrisB, thanks so much for your review of these four movies. I hadn't realized they were all movies until I just looked them all up!

    Dakota Johnson was absolutely amazing. This (the 2022 version) is her movie, and she's just so good. The dialogue is so sharp and witty and the characters are all so well done. I especially liked Anne's sister who is so self-absorbed that she doesn't notice Anne is responding entirely in Italian. The Bridgerton-like modernization was fun, too, and I liked Anne breaking the fourth wall. And I loved the bunny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Billie. I have now watched the 2022 version several times and enjoy it more each time I watch. It makes me laugh out loud more often than not.

      I would love to see the same kind of treatment for another of her novels. I believe any of them would benefit from it.

      Delete
  2. Now I'm picture a new version of P&P with some witty young actress doing that forth wall breaking stuff. It would really work tbh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? I think that would be the perfect Austen novel to film in this way. Also, S&S and Emma would work beautifully. In my humble opinion.

      Delete
    2. Didn't they already do an Emma that broke the 4th wall?

      Delete
    3. I'm not sure. I'm not as big a fan of Emma's as I am of Anne and Elizabeth, so it is very possible that it has been done and I ignored it. :-)

      Delete
  3. I'm not a big Jane Austen fan, but reading these comments I started to think that Charlotte Bronte's novel Villette could be a really interesting candidate for this style of adaptation.

    The main character, Lucy Snowe, is hilariously vicious. Her whole thing is observing others and making snarky comments in the narration, but never speaking them aloud. (Or, rarely speaking them aloud.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am loving this idea! Finally, there are all kinds of wonderful novels that might work very well. We'll have to hope...

      Delete

We love comments! We actively monitor, and feed mean, nasty comments to our cats. It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.