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Why I Don't Think 'Persuasion' (2022) Sucked

I actually liked the new Persuasion adaptation. I may even watch it again at some point. Yes, it had some quirks which weren't fully compatible with classic adaptations and yes, historical accuracy took a nap, and some casting choices were regretful, but overall I can say that it’s enjoyable... as a film made for the 2022 audience. The 2022 where TikTok rules the airwaves, attention spans are getting shorter and everything needs elaborating...

The 2007 Adaptation

I didn’t spend much time comparing it to the previous incarnations of the novel, or rather I didn’t wish it to BE one of its previous incarnations, because…they are available to watch and if I fancy watching them, then I know what to do... BritBox, YouTube, here I come.

I'll state for clarity that I haven't as of yet read the source novel, or watched the 1995 version, though these are at the top of my TBR and TBW lists.

I watched 2007 adaptation quite a few times (main draw was Mr Penry-Jones, of course) and am still quite in love with it...and him, obviously.

I thoroughly enjoyed this TV film. The leads had an undeniable chemistry, in my opinion. The supporting cast were great as well: particularly Amanda Hale as Mary Musgrove, and Anthony Stewart-Head as Walter Elliott and of course, Tobias Menzies as Mr Elliott. I think I may watch this film again soon. Thank god for BritBox...

The 1995 Adaptation

Back to 2022. Despite the criticism, I think there are plenty of things to like about this film. First of all, breaking of the fourth wall is absolutely fine by me. After Fleabag (2016-2019) set the trend, you’ll see everyone doing it. Gentleman Jack (2019-2022) borrowed the trend as well. The Serpent Queen (2022) is next...

N.B. Fleabag wasn't by far the first show to do it; there's a long history of breaking the fourth wall for various narrative reasons.

Another good thing about this film: most characters were cast exceptionally well, particularly Henry Goulding and Mia McKenna-Bruce. Goulding, like Menzies before him, brought the sex appeal to the villain of the piece.

Now for the biggie, the historical inaccuracy. The costumes, the make-up, the hairdos and the modern expressions e.g. "He's a ten" are all part of the style. It's not meant to be a historically accurate film, and let's not forget that. One thing I will say, is that a few of Dakota's outfits are definitely on my wish-list. The 'Patty Smith' look, though definitely not of the Regency era, is quite swanky.

Despite all of the above not detracting from my good opinion of the film, it does however, have flaws, and it's these flaws, which imho have pushed the popular opinion to the negative side.

The flaws are: Dakota Johnson’s accent, Cosmo Jarvis’ casting, the over-the-top gravy scene and the over-the-top letter scene. Without them, the film would just be classed as stylised interpretation.

Accent-wise, the voice coach should have worked harder, or Dakota Johnson just didn’t have enough time to get her RP right.

Second, Cosmo Jarvis as Wentworth. No offence to Jarvis, but he is wrong for the part. He and Johnson have zero chemistry together, and I would have expected Netflix to have the budget to search for another actor. It has been said that the role of Wentworth had been offered to Henry Goulding, yet he turned it down to be Mr Elliot instead.

The OTT gravy and the OTT letter scenes are both pushing the film into the cringe-worthy territory, and if it weren’t for them, the film would have been much better balanced and its good points much better appreciated. One might argue that there were other uneasy moments in the film....which there absolutely were, but without these cringey cherries on the cake, it would have been a lot more palatable.

These are my dealbreakers. Everything else the naysayers moan about, I can live with: the deviation from the source material, the historically inaccurate hairstyles and costumes and the fourth wall breaking. All of these are perfectly reasonable in a world which is now oversaturated with Georgian period dramas. These quirks are only logical in this industry after the release of Bridgerton (2020 -) and The Great (2020 -).

...The rumour has it that another adaptation, this time with Sarah Snook and Joel Fry is in the works, so if anyone needs a faithful lit-flick, this will be it! #fingerscrossed #happyaustening #happypersuading


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