Unlike The Book…: Our Review of ‘Persuasion’

Posted in Movies, Netflix, What's Streaming? by - July 12, 2022
Unlike The Book…: Our Review of ‘Persuasion’

Little Charles Musgrove (Hardy Yusuf) uses his non-broken hand to point to his face as a way of telling his aunt Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) that she still has jam of her face. The reason she has jam of her face is because she paints a mustache on her face. For the children, she impersonates Captain Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), who comes back from one of his voyages. She embarrasses herself when Wentworth walks in on her. And that embarrassment doubles because eight years before this reunion, he proposes to her. And she turns him down because the younger version of Wentworth is a poor sailor. Her sister Mary (Mia McKenna-Bruce), wears the discontent of raising Little Charles.

Meanwhile Anne is in her mid-twenties, a spinster in British Regency standards, feeling the emotions of the past and living it in the present. Film Twitter has its usual trending topics, like Marvel movies and question prompts about one’s favourite movies. But there was enough space in the discourse about Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow’s adaptation of Persuasion. Those who saw this film early write about how this film reframes Anne as this hyper postmodern heroine. This decision to modernize Anne, they say, is a misunderstanding of what Jane Austen is about. I agree with the first point, and I will discuss that later, and yes, I’ve only read two of her novels (maybe three) before I stopped reading books.

That said, I don’t agree that this is a full misinterpretation of a Jane Austen novel because her novels are about two things. Those two things are high stakes and loss, and this adaptation understands loss and makes its viewers feel that emotion. If a filmmaker encapsulates that sense of loss, one can do whatever it wants, within reason. Richard E. Grant being himself is within reason while its GenZism are beyond reason. This adaptation of Persuasion further stretches that reason while still retaining the worst things about 90s era Austen adaptations. Jarvis seems to be doing a Colin Firth impersonation. What’s the point of making Austen fresh if its second lead pulls away from that? Jarvis is no Ciaran Hinds.

Henry Golding on the other hand is a delight as Anne’s cousin and suitor Mr. Elliot, and I know this is his second time playing a punchable character, but someone will write about these two roles and what the mean for Asian representation. Outside of Golding, Carrie Cracknell’s diversity casting feels insulting here, relegating people of colour to tertiary roles. These character also spend a lot of time hiking while wearing inappropriate clothing. The only realistic thing about those hikes is that someone, Anne’s friend and romantic rival Louisa (Nia Towle) almost dies. The fourth wall breaks are sloppy. And there is one piece of scatological humour here that made me of all people react like a prude. Netflix was having a such a relatively good month in both films and TV before this came along.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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