Last month Netflix released a new movie version of the classic Jane Austen novel, Persuasion, starring Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) as leading lady, Anne Elliot. There has been quite a bit of controversy when it comes to the adaptation, some enjoying the liberties taken with the material and other Austen fans wishing for a more pure interpretation.
Should you be persuaded to watch? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Persuasion
Overall Rating: Good Enough
Persuasion takes the Austen novel and inserts some fourth wall-breaking self-narration and some Millennial vernacular to create a fresh-faced more comedic version of the lesser known Austen work (lesser known to Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility) which was actually published just after Austen’s death.
The movie does just fine. Austen’s source material is as clever and heartfelt as all her works and the modernization is charming even though a lot of the jokes are a little tired (we get it Millennials think childless wine aunts are cool). The performances are a little phoned-in but familiar and adequate. Jane Austen’s works often uplift the middle class and employment and cast down classism so there is always a slight element of conservative values. Overall, if one likes Jane Austen or watched Bridgerton on Netflix, Persuasion is a worthwhile film.
Is it entertaining?
The story is a classic Austen romance full of meaning in the unsaid, misunderstanding and long languishing devotion. There is a lot of conversation and long walks and in this version some funny characters and dialogue. The pace is pretty steady and respectfully under two hours. If a viewer enjoys regency era romances Persuasion is as entertaining as most.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Fine for Netflix
Persuasion is fine for a sort of pseudo made-for-tv experience. The depiction of Anne Elliot was really more just a depiction of a watered down Elizabeth Bennett or something like a Jane Austen amalgam. Dakota Johnson was fine and charming but her English accent slipped in and out so regularly I’m not really sure why they even made her do one. Considering the film featured people of all races playing roles of all stations in society and the film used modern language, it definitely wasn’t going for “period realism.” So why not just let Dakota speak with her American accent?
Also some of the jokes were pretty tired. Anne Elliot is depicted as a childless wine aunt which is the favorite of millennial women but a very “done” characterization. She is often carrying around a bottle of wine and spilling things on herself. It’s just very “been there, seen that, read the Millennial feminist think piece.”
But overall, with the flaws being what they are, it was pretty well done with lovely landscapes, fun costumes, and a recognizable cast who were all easy to get behind.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Very slight lean right
Mainly the politics of the regency era in Great Britain are not politics we still deal with today but Jane Austen was always a celebrator of hard-working middle-class people which is made clear in Persuasion. For that reason, it leans slightly to the right but otherwise is a very neutral film.