Director: Carrie Cracknell
Writers: Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Henry Golding, Richard E. Grant, Anikki Amuka-Bird, Ben Bailey, Mia McKenna-Bruce
Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last novel, published six months after her death. Over two centuries later, and having been adapted a fair few times already, it’s now Netflix’s turn. This version re-interprets the story with modern-day language and colour-blind casting that will probably annoy the Austen purists. It’s told more like a light-hearted and quirky romcom than a period drama.
The tone is set instantly by having the main character Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) introduce the story while speaking directly to the camera. This style is kept up all the way through, with Anne giving the audience knowing smirks all the way through.
It feels inspired by 2019’s fabulous The Personal History of David Copperfield, in that it takes a classic novel and brightens it up with an off-beat tone and a diverse cast. Persuasion isn’t as whimsical or magical as Copperfield was, but it tries its hardest to be. The end result is still a very enjoyable version of the story.
Dakota Johnson does a great job as Anne. She’s a charming and relatable character, detached from the rest of the people around her, not really fitting in and blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong time. Richard E. Grant is absolutely excellent as Anne’s self-obsessed father, Sir Walter Elliot. He practically steals every scene he’s in. Mia McKenna-Bruce is fabulous as Anne’s youngest sister, Mary Elliot, who’s beyond selfish, and has some of the best lines of the film.
This adaptation is more bothered about being funny and bouncy rather than faithful to the source material. It’s light-entertainment that if you can get along with it, is very charming and enjoyable. By sticking with the original setting but modernising the tone and language it will probably introduce a whole new audience to the story, while at the same time alienating those that already loved it. For those that hate this version, the previous adaptations are still available and there will be more in the future. If you’re interested, and not put off by the modernisation, then it’s really worth giving a go.
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I read that the Austen purists will be unhappy once more, but I think I will give it a view. I am a fan of both Johnson and Grant, like the idea of breaking the fourth wall with a lighter touch, and it sounds like it deserves an audience.