Persuasion (2022)
August 28, 2022 5:33 AM - Subscribe

Living with her snobby family on the brink of bankruptcy, Anne Elliot is an unconforming woman with modern sensibilities. When Frederick Wentworth - the dashing one she once sent away - crashes back into her life, Anne must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances.

This Jane Austen adaptation stars Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson), directed by Carrie Cracknell (longtime theatre director, first-time film) from a script by Ron Bass (and one of his "Ronettes").

The colorblind casting recalls Bridgerton, the updated dialog and sensibilities recalls Dickinson. The fourth wall breaking recalls Fleabag and She-Hulk. Critics hated it.

I quite liked it, but I don't recall the book, so I don't doubt true fans would be perplexed. But I felt like whatever changes made ended up telling a good story, the costumes and sets were lovely (though not extensive), and the talking to the camera worked for me. In a world with a thousand BBC-style Regency romances, I feel like there's room for this.
posted by rikschell (11 comments total)
I wish to boil it alive, drown it in a sack and then pound it into dust and scatter the ashes at sea.

Very little of the actual story remained. It is a lurching zombie dressed in the skin of the book with clever quips. The costuming and sets were also fairly mediocre for an Austen setting - there have been much better ones.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:16 AM on August 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

If you do like modern Austen, there is the delightful and absolutely thoughtful and funny Lost in Austen.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

I adored it, desperately, but also acknowledge that it very much alters the characterization of Anne. However, I submit that the alteration is a modernization that keeps the substance the same but makes it relatable for modern audiences who would otherwise find Anne pitiable.
posted by corb at 6:41 AM on August 28, 2022

Actually - I feel the need to give a much longer and deeper and perhaps more vulnerable analysis/defense of this!

I think what resonated so deeply with me personally is that it really nabbed that quality of how that sort of fierce, tough bravado can actually conceal a quiet desperation and sadness just as much as fading away and becoming the single surplus woman who becomes a family mainstay. And how the sort of "You should be getting yours, always moving on to the next thing" can cause heartbreak just as much as the social strictures that are more difficult to understand. Lady Russell, Anne's godmother, lives a glorious single life and the (yes, wildly ahistorical) implication that goes to Europe to have affairs and seems very happy with it, and the sense is that this is an acceptable option more than sitting around in a room pining. Pining is the one option considered unacceptable for a woman of intelligence like Anne.

And it really spoke to me personally - I feel that in the modern era pining over lost love is actually the one sin we fully don't understand, tolerate, or forgive, which is why the adaptation kind of made much more sense modernized. I think of my friends who are still in love with exes from years ago and how people treat them, and I think of my own times having difficulty getting over exes and how absolutely unsympathetic friends and family and really everyone is - there's a certain period you're expected to mourn and then you're supposed to pick yourself back up and get out there. And how insidious the approval of friends and others is when you're once again dating after a period of pining, how tempting it is to go with the clear option on the table of the successful, attractive, other partner that maybe you don't love as much, but it comes with massive social approval and self esteem.

So I really, really identified with this Anne in a way that I'd had difficulty identifying with previous Annes - because specifically of the putting on a brave face, of laughing with a touch of desperation, of yes, drinking too much and it not helping, and not telling friends how much you're hurting. That Anne spoke to me. It definitely wasn't the Anne that Austen wrote. But I think it's the Anne that Austen would have written if she were looking at our society and writing today.
posted by corb at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

I agree, it worked as a portrait of depression, triggered by but obviously not exclusively about her lost love.

It's funny, I really grew to hate "Anne with an E" which took a similar tack with Anne of Green Gables (taking characters and some broad points and basically ignoring the original story). Perhaps this would have drawn less hate as an Austen pastiche rather than as an "adaptation." I'm not a huge fan of the frothiness of Bridgerton, and I liked how this was quieter in its desperation.
posted by rikschell at 7:52 AM on August 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have not read the book (I like Austen plots/characters but find her writing style hard to get through, so I only read what I had to for school), nor actually watched this show. I'm curious about it but also read/saw so many bad reviews that I have still not committed to watching it. (So why am I posting?! Yeah, good point. I can't explain my stupid.) If you like the book, it seems to be hideous to those people. The few reviews by people who never read it seem to be better.

My impression is that they kept the period setting but then wrote it like it was 2022, with Anne beimg a drunk wine aunt, someone else claiming to be an empath, and enough modernity to totally jar you out of the story with ridiculousmess. That does sound like the major problem with it. Makes you wish they'd just done it in modern times, Clueless-style already, that might have been liked more?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2022

I love both the novel and the 1995 adaptation, and I'm down for a modernization of classic literature almost any time, but just seeing the advertising with all those smug smirks of Anne's made me feel that something was very, very, very wrong there.
posted by praemunire at 12:46 PM on August 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I think actually moving it into modern times would have significantly helped, and they could have made everything more explicit, but I think they did want to try to grab the Bridgerton audience.

Like, what I would have loved to see is actually a slightly aged up Anne (over 30), with Frederick as someone who made it in tech and who is surrounded by other techbros talking about how only losers go for women who've rejected them once, and how women who are over 30 are "basically undateable!". His family takes up residence at the house as a summer AirBnB...
posted by corb at 1:53 PM on August 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

I started this and while I'm not someone who really cares about this being a faithful adaptation of the source material & I like Dakota Johnson...

I just found this so charmless I didn't finish it. I wanted to give it a chance, despite the reviews, but I just got bored. And it takes a lot for me to not finish a movie.

I ended up watching Fire Island instead. It was the Austen adaptation I wanted.
posted by edencosmic at 4:05 PM on August 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Persuasion is my favorite Austen book. I, as an old person, appreciate reading about the trials and tribulations of other old people seeking love at the mature age of . . . twenty-six.

So I turned this on when it dropped, having heard none of the buzz.

It announces right away to anyone who knows the book that it's not trying to do Austen. It turns out it's a sub-Bridgerton level costume comedy. Which is fine, those can exist. I ended up being most annoyed by the few scenes that did keep dialogue from the novel, because then I was like "you're missing the point and tone!"

But otherwise pretty people in fancy clothes. No explosions. There are worse ways to spend two hours (see the recent Rising Sun entry here on fanfare for one concrete example.)
posted by mark k at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2022

I tried to watch it, keeping an open mind. I noped out after about 30 minutes. It was about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
posted by kyrademon at 5:50 PM on November 8, 2022

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