1 September 2022 Susannah

Persuasion 2022

Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Persuasion

It’s been a little while since there has been a new Jane Austen film adaptation to watch, and for some time I was really looking forward to the new Netflix version of Persuasion. Then I saw the trailer and my heart sank – miscast, packed with anachronisms of clothing and language, colour-blind casting, dialogues that would turn Jane Austen in her grave, and so much more that was wrong. I steeled myself and sat down one evening to watch it, and now I wish I hadn’t. One critic has commented that everyone involved in this movie ought to be in prison. I’d go further and suggest the rack and thumbscrews be used as well! Just when I thought the film had hit new depths, it plunged even lower. I think the ‘octopus-on-the-face’ moment (yes, I know, but don’t ask!) was probably the very worst of the worst, but there was so much that was simply unforgivable.

How can a human being with any sort of brain take such a wonderful, rich, deep and moving novel, and turn it into such an abomination?

I am not a total purist – I can cope with intelligent changes when a book is turned into a movie, but I could see no rhyme or reason for any of the changes in this film. And I found it boring, something I’ve never experienced with any Jane Austen film before. Its only redeeming feature was in casting Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot.

The new film has been panned by the critics (one described it as one of the worst films of the year) and rightly so. Few feel it is the sort of adaptation that will drive those who have never read the book to do so, and all the Persuasion addicts I know, and there are many of them, are either avoiding the film altogether or are still shuddering in horror over its many atrocities. Dante reserved special places in Hell for various categories of sinner – I’d be keeping a particularly unpleasant spot for the director, producer, scriptwriter and cast of this truly dreadful film.

Do you agree with my opinion of this film? Or are you amongst those who felt differently? I’d love to know what you think in a comment.

Leave a comment.

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Featured image- Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in the Netflix 2022 adaptation of Persuasion, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13456318/
Body image- Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot, https://www.thewrap.com/persuasion-netflix-cast-characters/

Comments (46)

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Have you read the book? I do know a few people who have read the book and liked it, but most of those who love the book have detested the portrayal of Anne.

      • Joy

        Yes. And I still liked the film. The plot and characters had my husband and me totally engaged in the film. I know it is different from the book but I still enjoyed this interpretation.

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Always interesting that we each respond so differently to films and books.

  1. Penny Morris

    I managed about 10minutes before I had to switch off – the drinking and 1st person narrative with no regard for the period meant I could not continue. Anne is not one of my favourite Austen characters (give me the feisty Elizabeth Bennet any day) but she did not deserve this portrayal.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It was dire, wasn’t it! How could they do that to a wonderful book?

  2. Catherine Dunn

    Richard E Grant is always a bonus in any piece of drama! I am yet to watch the series since my problem is with the book itself. Yes beautifully written. Yes coruscating portrayals of complex characters. But the heroine is so wet. I just want to slap her. She exercises such minimal agency in how things unfold.. of course true to life for the era..

    my least favourite

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think you are in the minority in finding Anne wet, but even Jane Austen admitted that Anne might be “too good” for her. I do prefer more spirited heroines, like Elizabeth and Emma, but have come to love Anne’s quiet integrity adn strength.

  3. Helen Gentle

    We watched Persuasion when it first came out, knowing it would be very different. We actually had fun ripping it to shreds!
    Unlike most of you, I can’t stand Richard E Grant in anything…he doesn’t act, he just simpers around as himself.
    I DO agree though, Susannah, why use a wonderful novel, and change it’s essence, when they could have written their own silly story?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Glad you agree that it was a travesty. In this case, simpering worked well for Richard E Grant but he was given some terrible lines to speak.
      I do wish they would do a lovely and accurate version of Persuasion. It has been a long time since the Amanda Root one.

  4. Margy

    Sounds like ‘100% agony, no hope at all’ to me. I knew from my first viewing of the trailer that I would be severely disappointed so haven’t spent the time to watch it. I might re-read the book (yet) again though and enjoy my own imaginings of the characters through Jane Austen’s wonderful words.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I think we Janeites just have to turn to the book for the usual joy and comfort it brings, and let those who don’t love the novel watch this new film.

  5. Gretel Quinn

    Well after all those comments I am drawn to actually watch the movie! I have passed over it until now.
    I shall approach it as quite separate from the book and delight in finding all the character assassinations, visual, social and historic anachronisms etc mentioned so far. I’ll see if I can make it to the end. I did with Bridgerton – wonderfully colourful costumes!
    I love Bath and am sure some of the scenery will be lovely.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also enjoyed Bridgerton. It didn’t pretend to be something it was not, and it was such a romp that you could forgive the historical inaccuracies. However, with Persuasion, it was taking a beloved novel and trying to turn it into something else, and in the process leaving out everything that makes the book so great.
      Anyway, see what you think when you watch it.

  6. Miland Joshi

    Knowing nothing about the film, not even the title or which Austen novel it was based on, I guessed that you wouldn’t like it before looking at your blog, and I was right! My conviction is that you don’t like film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, period. But I may be wrong.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, you are wrong. There are many adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels that I really love – Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility, the 1980 and 1995 TV versions of Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version of Mansfield Park, Love and Friendship, Bride and Prejudice, Lost in Austen, and many others. I just don’t like versions which make huge changes to the story, the characters and which ignore historical accuracy.
      And the dreadful Netflix Persuasion is based on the novel ‘Persuasion’, one of the greatest novels ever written.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with your review Susannah! The new Persuasion is a travesty. Apart from the many many jarring moments some of which have been highlighted, one of the most intensely irritating aspects of the film for me was the film makers’ complete lack of empathy and respect for the character of Anne Elliott herself. Portraying Anne as a sparkling sassy extrovert rather than respecting Jane’s creation of a quiet deeply sad and reflective Anne was an appalling creative decision. It seems to me the filmmakers made a conscious decision to superimpose Elizabeth Bennet into that situation – because they underestimated the intelligence of the viewers and couldn’t imagine that the quieter sadder Anne could hold our attention and make us care for her.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Their treatment of Anne’s character was so dire. To see such a fabulous literary heroine swigging wine from the bottle, making rude remarks and speaking rudely, making an idiot of herself with jam on her face, and so many other moments, was deeply upsetting. She is an intelligent, reflective, polite, clever and sensitive woman in the novel – you get none of that in the film.

  8. Geraldine B

    I really didnt mind it! I saw it as a different version of a story, different but actaully still quite fun. Yes, not the Austin version, but still quite fun, and if you want Jane’s version unchanged, then just stick with the book.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      There are some versions of the novels I love, and I’m not a total purist. As long as the spirit of the novel is captured and the characters remain true, then I’m fine with a film version. But this version failed on both those counts for me.

  9. Wendy

    I didn’t like it as Persuasion because Persuasion it ain’t. Like others, I did enjoy Richard E Grant as Sir Walter and Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mary. And if you pretend you’re watching something else, there was some nice scenery. They completely lost the long drawn out tension between Anne and Frederick, they completely messed up the elopement of her cousin & Mrs Clay and they completely messed up the dialogue which was not only atrocious but had no internal coherence. I could have dealt with Anne talking to the fourth wall if she talked/thought/felt as the character in the book but as portrayed it just added insult to injury.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, the Bath scenery was nice, but there was just so much wrong with this film!

  10. Leon Robinson

    I agree .although I quite liked Dakota Johnson but her talking to the camera reminded me of Fleabag! I thought it was much too modern and the dialogue appalling.. I enjoyed the locations especially Bath.

    I only joined Netflix to see A Suitable Boy which was brilliant so not a total loss .

    Enjoy France I’d love to be with you .

    Am enjoying your comments each month.

    Thanks Leon Robinson

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Dakota Johnson looked right for the role (if only she’d had her hair up) but the lines she was given were so dreadful.
      I agree about A Suitable Boy – I just loved it. You might be interested in my 60 minute illustrated video talk about Vikram Seth and A Suitable Boy – just $15 on my website.

  11. Maria

    I’ve seen it and didn’t hate it, mostly because I watched with my adult daughter, who has never read Austen despite my attempts, and we had a great discussion afterwards, with me sharing my concerns about the movie and deciding that we should watch one of the earlier, much better adaptations together soon. Nevertheless, I do wish the Sarah Snook “Persuasion” movie had been made instead of this one.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, they cancelled the wrong version. Surely it would have been better than this one! But good that it got you discussing and comparing. My daughter has read Persuasion, but not some of the others.

  12. Malvina

    I did enjoy Richard E Grant, as usual he gave a superb performance. But I feel the movie lost so much of the inner longing and angst between Anne and Captain Wentworth (who inexplicably looked constipated most of the time). A shame, as that longing is such a core part of the book. So while it might bring some new readers to Persuasion – and I hope it does – this won’t be my favourite version.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, the Amanda Root version was so well done and she was a fabulous Anne. It’s such a marvellous book and it’s a real shame that this new version is such an awful version of the story.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Constipated is exactly the right word to describe that Capt Wentworth. And couldn’t he have shaved just occasionally?
      If it does bring new readers to the book, I hope they won’t be disappointed when it proves to be nothing like the film.

  13. Thank you Susannah for saving me from wasting two hours of my life. Persuasion is my favourite Austen and I loved the Amanda Root version, though nothing beats the book! I shall spend my time reading instead of watching this.

  14. Nicolette Birkhold

    I love Persuasion, its one of my favourites so I must admit I was expecting the film to be a clone of Bridgerton, which in many ways it was.

    I agree that Richard E. Grant was the standout but so was Mia McKenna-Bruce who played Mary Musgrove.

    So while I totally agree with your sentiments, I did enjoy the film but not as a Jane Austen adaptation I just decided to take it on face value, laugh at it and go with it and hope that (eventually) a decent film adaptation that honours the book will be made.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I agree that Mary Musgrove was also well acted. It’s just a pity that good actors were given such a dreadful script.
      I couldn’t separate it from the book in my mind, and just kept wondering why they had made such stupid changes. Let’s hope a better film version soon appears.

  15. Gwyn Burns

    Yes I have watched it too and was appalled by it. I would normally replay a Jane Austen movie, but this version of ‘Persuasion’ was so anti Austen I can not! The one thing that really made me mad was a modern blanket on the bed when she lies down. But really most of it irritates me. If it had been properly done Hugh Grant would be perfect as her father.
    Kind Regards,

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The list of errors in the film is so long, it would take ages to compile it! I hadn’t noticed the blanket, so thanks for letting me know about that one.
      Yes, a dreadful movie!

  16. Jan Merriman

    Susannah, as we had our Southern Highlands Group Members Forum on Persuasion in June, we presented some clips from various adaptations and included the newly released trailer for the Netflix Persuasion. One look at the trailer was enough: Bridgerton out of Fleabag! Though I did try to watch the entire movie later but gave up. Truly awful. But I entirely agree with you, some adaptations can capture the essence of the book and also be quite controversial. The Patricia Rozema version of Mansfield Park is a great favourite of mine, though few share my view.
    Jan Merriman

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The Rozema Mansfield Park is an interesting version and you can see why Rozema made the changes she did. But with this new version, there’s no rhyme nor reason behind the changes. Just one big mess!

  17. Julie Sweeten

    I totally agree with your assessment of this truly dreadful adaptation, there is little to redeem it. The portrayal of Anne Elliot is unforgivable and it was just silly and ridiculous – I felt no connection with her and was relieved when it finished. Louisa seemed a more sensible, worthy heroine in comparison! Worst adaptation ever!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Not only the worst Jane Austen adaptation ever, but one of the very worst movies I have ever seen. Glad you agree with me assessment, Julie.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Perhaps all Janeites should watch it, just to remind ourselves of how good some film adaptations are, and to what depths filmmakers can sink!

  18. Suzanne Greta

    Hi Susannah, couldn’t agree more with your comments about the Netflix version of Persuasion. It was awful, change for change sake often doesn’t work and this film was an example of that.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      There just didn’t seem to be any reason for the changes that were made. Why was Anne clutching a rabbit? Why did she go swimming, at a time when girls would not have known how to swim? Why have her spreading jam on her face? It was a travesty.

  19. Heather Grant

    Well – after your review of this movie I will DEFINITELY NOT WATCH it. What a travesty! I certainly DID NOT like the TV production of Sanditon but this new movie of Persuasion sounds much worse.

    I loved the novel Persuasion and it is one of my favourites along with Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Then there are her other novels also my favourites (cannot choose which one – it’s a dilemma) which I’m in the process of rereading.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Nothing compares with the joy of reading the novels. Some film versions are fabulous, but this new Persuasion is definitely not one of them!

  20. Susannah I trust your judgement and will avoid that Netflix program. I’m recently out of hospital and desperate for a good book to read. Nearly finished The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai winner of the 2006 Man Booker and its not a sick-bed book… any suggestions for a more enjoyable read? All the best in France, lucky you.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, Shirley, and hope you feel better soon.
      Lessons in Chemistry, which I rave about in my newsletter, is perfect sick-bed reading. I adored it!

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