Basically: It’s still a Regency rom-com but this time with the voice of a modern woman.
In the style of Carrie Cracknell’s adaptation of Persuasion, I shall start by breaking the fourth wall to confess: I hadn’t read the book before watching the movie. However, I have read appalling heaps of historical romance and thus shall endeavor, with my meager foreknowledge, to guide you through this new enterprise (due out on Netflix on Friday, July 15).
Persuasion (as a narrative) is filled with forlorn longing, swoony repartee, and ample amounts of heaving bosoms of all genders. Just what we want in an Austen tale. The romance centers on Anne (Dakota Johnson) who, in a massively misguided mistake, allowed her dearest Aunty (Nikki Amuka-Bird) to ‘persuade’ her to give up the man she loved. Who? A poor sailor by the name of Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis). Now, it’s eight years later and her vain (Richard E. Grant), vapid (Yolanda Kettle), and vacuous (Mia McKenna-Bruce) family is beginning to grate on the nerves. Surely, life on the sea, being loved to distraction, however much without luxury, would be better than that.
Well, perhaps we’ll see.
This new version of the story is as tongue-in-cheek as can be. Anne, in the manner of a reality show confessional, interacts with us throughout the film. She warns us against her sister’s hypochondria, embarrases herself with boozy antics, or confides in us with raw emotion. If you’re not in the right mood it can be a bit much (perhaps too today) but I enjoyed seeing Austen come full circle to the type of woman-led romantic comedies that are the clear descendants of her books. If you want something traditional this isn’t that; this is a hybrid of old and new and (if you’re in the right mood) it works.
The cast is winsome. Each plays their role with winking wit and an earnest belief their character is the center of the story’s universe. And the two leads desire each other with such ferocity that you support them (even if you’re not invested in who they end up with).
You might wonder why I’m kinder to this adaptation than I was to Emma (2020), starring Anya Taylor-Joy. The reason is simple, that one had nothing new to say. It was the same old Emma in prettier frocks. This at least reaches for something new, even if it comes off campy.
2022’s Persuasion is flirtatious, flippant, and somewhat frivolous; as sweet in this small dose as bonbons for supper. Yet, it’s a good thing we don’t get too much.
In the End: If you like a bit of Austen, you’ll have fun with this latest take.