Persuasion: The Jane Austen Adaptation Is Terrible

L-R: Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Izuka Hoyle as Henrietta Musgrove, Nia Towle as Louisa Musgrove, and Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mary Elliot in Persuasion. Photo credit: Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022.

The Dakota Johnson-starring Persuasion makes its arrival on Netflix as the first big screen adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.

While there have been previous film adaptations, they were made-for-TV and not for the big screen. In fairness, this film did get a brief theatrical release before going to its forever home on Netflix. Unfortunately, one should not go into this film with any high hopes. I mean, it’s very telling alone with Netflix not lifting the review embargo until a week into its theatrical release. Say what you will about the film’s talented cast but the film does them a terrible disservice.

If you’re familiar with the Jane Austen novel, you’re coming into this mess with an advantage, for better or worse. Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) has modern sensibilities for an early 19th century woman that is otherwise uncomforming for her time. Moreover, she’s still living with her family, who are described as snobby. This is one of those cases where the family dynamics make or break the film. Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) is the one who got away because the family pressured them to break off their 1806 engagement. Lo and behold, the Navy Captain is right back in Anne’s life after a seven-year absence. She must choose wisely when it comes to a second chance with Wentworth or she could just forget him and move on with her life.

I give the filmmakers some credit in bringing diversity to the casting. I can’t speak to whether it is authentic for the era because I am not familiar with the England’s racial situation at the time. Given that the 1800s were the 1800s, it would not be shocking at all to read books and not see any diversity in characters when it comes to race. Moreover, earlier film adaptations probably wouldn’t even bat an eye and would just stay true to the book with regards to casting. This is one of those cases where the film follows Bridgerton in terms of diversity in casting.

The humor should write itself but it just fails miserably on an epic level. Moreover, the production notes describe the film as a “modern, subversive take” on the novel. If this were the case, wouldn’t it make sense for filmmakers to move the setting to the 21st century? This would make the best sense for everyone. Whether it works or doesn’t, I don’t know but anything would be better than this wretched mess of a drama. They could always rent out the space through Airbnb. I mean, the comedy just writes itself in this situation! Instead, the film only seems to be taking advantage of Bridgerton and Regency-era England. Anyway, this is just my two cents. There’s a better film here but this one isn’t it.

Persuasion may some solid period costumes but the overall drama is a serious letdown of epic proportions. You’re better off just turning on Clueless again if you need a Jane Austen fix. Unlike this messy film, Clueless won’t struggle to keep your attention!

DIRECTOR: Carrie Cracknell
SCREENWRITERS: Ron Bass & Alice Victoria Winslow
CAST: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Mia McKenna-Bruce, with Richard E. Grant and Henry Golding, Ben Bailey-Smith, Yolanda Kettle, Nia Towle, Izuka Hoyle

Netflix released Persuasion in theaters on July 1, 2022 and will start streaming on July 15, 2022. Grade: 1.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.