Jane Austen, regarded as one of the first rom-com authors, has had another classic adapted for the big screen again in Persuasion, a new period drama starring Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades Of Grey) as an 1800s woman with modern sensibilities who has a second chance to reconnect with the love of her life she once let get away.
From its look and feel, Persuasion may remind us of Netflix hit Bridgerton, but despite the film having beautiful cinematography and a well-known cast, the poor script and execution make it feel like Bridgerton without the wit and the excitement.
Based loosely on the novel of the same name by Austen, Persuasion is directed by Carrie Cracknell and tells the story of Anne Elliot (Johnson), a young woman who was once in love with a poor Navy man named Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis). However, she was persuaded by her family to end the relationship, but eight years later when he eventually gets a promotion to captain, Frederick returns from his duties, and the two meet again, resulting in the possibility of a second chance. However, Anne has to contend with other possible suitors and choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances.
First of all, this is a beautiful-looking movie. The production looks great, with amazing costumes and set designs that really transport us to the early 1800s. There is a lot of variety and colour, and the beautiful cinematography really helps breathe life into the film. Whether a scene is set in the woods or elsewhere, there's a romantic atmosphere that's conveyed throughout.
No matter how familiar you are with Austen's novels or other adaptations, the romance plot here is not much different from the typical rom-coms we get, with the exception of a period setting. We're told from the beginning that Anne used to be engaged to Frederick, but their engagement was broken off. But even though eight years have passed, Anne's not really moved on emotionally.
From left, Dakota Johnson, Richard E. Grant and Yolanda Kettle in Persuasion.
Johnson is the star of the film and also takes on the duty of narrator, guiding us through the events of her love life. She was good as far as the performance was concerned -- an introspective, thoughtful and hopeless romantic who is reeling over her loss, love and family's manipulation. Unfortunately, her introspection is not subtle in the way it's presented here. As a gimmick for narration, Anne's character shares her feelings with the audience by just talking to the camera. I didn't mind at first, but over time, it became repetitive and began to annoy me, especially when Johnson keeps smirking at the camera every other five minutes. It just distracts you from watching the film and feels like the movie doesn't trust the audience to interpret her character's struggles for themselves.
Also, the way Anne's character was written has this weird vibe about her and her actions often don't make much sense. Despite supposedly being depressed about her situation over Frederick's absence, she frequently dishes out jokes with other characters and to the audience and rarely seems bothered, which seems to reduce the impact of the problem.
The romantic subplot, which was meant to be the most important part of Austen's story, is bland and dull, especially the relationship that Anne and Frederick have, or at least are supposed to have. There isn't any sort of chemistry between the two besides the opening scene that would indicate they are lovers. There's also no drama that exists between them that would make things interesting. It also takes a long route just to get to the destination that we all know is coming in the end, making the character arcs boring and unsatisfying.
In the end, Persuasion is a beautifully shot film without substance. It feels like an unfulfilling adaptation of a beloved classic, and even as a movie on its own, it's still disappointing. If you like period dramas or are interested in Jane Austen adaptations, I recommend watching movies like Pride And Prejudice (2005), Sense And Sensibility (1995) or Emma (1996) instead.
- Starring Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Mia McKenna-Bruce
- Directed by Carrie Cracknell
- Now streaming on Netflix