Persuasion (2022)


Jane Austen fans consider Persuasion one of Jane’s best novels, because it’s about a quiet, introverted heroine with nothing to recommend her who at long last gets her man. In this cute adaptation, Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) breaks the fourth wall and makes comments to the audience throughout, to explain her own history, her regrets, and to keep us entertained while her dreadful family make fools of themselves. Rather than a woeful Anne staring miserably into the middle distance, her enormous eyes full of unsung promises, we get an Anne who shows us her “play list” (a sheaf of musical selections bound together by a ribbon) and who informs us she never trusts attractive people. And I loved it.

Eight years ago, Anne allowed herself to be ‘persuaded’ not to marry Captain Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), because her family could not stand the idea of her engagement to a nobody. In the time since, he has become rich and powerful and is now being considered for the admiralty. She wishes she had made another choice, but tries to content herself with living her best single life (mostly by drowning her sorrows in glasses of wine and going through her box of memories). And then, Wentworth comes back into her life.

Her father’s fiendish spending habits have left them forced to leave their estate and rent it out to an admiral. They leave Anne at home to attend to the details, since talking about money is a miserable thing to do, and she winds up at her sister’s house. Mary, who finds fault in everything, is quite excited to meet the handsome Wentworth, but his reintroduction to Anne has a decided frost on it. All she hopes is that he will give her one sign of affection, one indication that their romantic life is not at an end… but she’s not the only girl in the district who wants him!

Persuasion is a hard book to adapt, because so much of it is internal. It’s all about Anne’s inner experiences and regrets. The choice to break the fourth wall and have her talk to the audience is an inspired one, because it lets us into her head, it gives her a sense of humor, and it makes her more interesting as a protagonist. And a lot of people hate it. They like the book better, they don’t like this story being given a sense of humor, they don’t like the modernizations (Anne calls Wentworth her ‘ex’ at one point, and humorously shows us a newspaper clipping of the time he saved a ‘beached whale’). But I did. I laughed with delight and wanted to watch it again when the credits rolled. Persuasion has never been my favorite of Austen’s stories, and I have never cared for any of the movie adaptations. The story is slow and nothing much happens in it, cinematically. So to give Anne a little more of a personality, to make her funny and likable and enjoy being around kids, even if she makes a fool of herself a couple of times, gives some ‘breath’ to the story.


It’s still not perfect. There’s no real sexual tension between the leads, and the choice of color-blind casting means their cousin who will inherit everything is Asian, while the wealthy Lady Russell is African-English, but these are minor points. It’s a funny, charming way to spend under two hours, and it’s no more of an atrocity than any other adaptation... and a lot more fun than most!

Sexual Content:
Anne takes a bath (no nudity). A woman doesn't want another's naked skin touching her sheets while she is out of town. A joke about adultery. A widow goes on 'elegant and discreet' European tours (presumably where she has sexual affairs). Some sexual innuendo.
A woman falls off some stairs and hits her head.



Anne gets drunk in one scene, and copes with her unhappiness through drinking. She squats to pee in the woods on a walk, but hears someone coming and doesn't. A joke about "farts."

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