A Jane Austen movie with a modern spin and a charming lead.
Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is given a modern-day atmosphere on Netflix. It’s still a period piece with the mannerisms and styles of the modern age.
Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) is feeling melancholy for being persuaded to give up the man of her dreams-the naval officer Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvas). He was one of the few people who saw the inside of her, alongside her late mother and godmother Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird), while her father Sir Walter (Richard E. Gant) cares about himself and his money, and her two sisters (Yolanda Kettle as Elizabeth and Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mary) see less of her. So, to ease her pain, she drinks wine, takes nice baths, and breaks the fourth wall.
It becomes an awkward moment for Anne and Frederick when they reunite at a dinner party. When they finally have their alone time, he admits that he thinks about her every day, and just she’s hoping they can get romantically involved again, he says he would like to be friends with her. That’s when she awkwardly agrees. She says to the audience: they’re strangers. No worse. They’re exes. No even worse. They’re friends.
Johnson is another reason why this movie version works, because of how well she adapts to the English accent and mannerisms of herself. “Fifty Shades of Grey” made her look and act like an idiot, which is why I skipped its sequels. And she was able to prove herself worthy in such films as “How to Be Single,” “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” and more recently, “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” In “Persuasion,” she seems to be enjoying herself in the role of Anne Elliot, and she shifts in moods and tones at her own pace, and at the pace of the director Carrie Cracknell.
It’s not a perfect film adaptation, because of how some of its scenes seem flimsy, when adapted from the novel, and I haven’t read it, so I can’t really compare and contrast. But as a Netflix release, it has greater interest in the lead character, unlike “The Gray Man,” an expensive action thriller that threw Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans around. “Persuasion” is a B-movie with vulnerabilities and heart all around.
It’s breezier than it is profound, and like another period piece “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” adapted from a book by a different author, it deals with the question of love, while having some colorblind casting. It could care less that Henry Golding plays William Elliot, the heir presumptive to Sir Walter, which is why he is referred to as Mr. Elliot. This guy could be a potential suitor for Anne. He’s of English decent, so he matches the tone and complexity of the character.
Besides Johnson and Golding, here’s also some good work from Jarvas, Amuka-Bird, and Gant, who all seem to merge well with their characters. Jarvas has class as Frederick, Amuka-Bird has her valuable moments with Johnson, and Gant sounds like the perfect actor to portray such a vain father with his age and dialogue. There’s too many supporting characters for me to catch up on, but all things considered, at least they know what they’re getting themselves into: a Jane Austen period piece with a timely echo.
I liked this version for its likability and mannerisms. Most reviews for it have been negative, but I’d take Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot over Ana Steele any day. I just hope her character’s (Ana) baby is smarter than she is.
Streaming on Netflix