Persuasion (2022): For Those Who Hate Jane Austen

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As the literary purist here at Frock Flicks, I fell on the grenade that is the Netflix attempt at Persuasion (2022). I was supremely irritated at the trailer when it threw out these bold claims:

Persuasion (2022) Persuasion (2022)

And yet had zero actual Jane Austen content detected in the dialog, manners, and characterizations glimpsed therein.

Folks, I’m here to tell you that the trailer did not disappoint! Within 5 minutes of firing up the actual flick, I knew this was the “Jane Austen for drooling idiots who hate Austen” retelling of her tale. Dakota Johnson plays a depressed yet still spunky heroine who fills her time talking directly to the camera about her lost love! The gorgeous houses around her might be from the 1810s, but this Anne Elliot is a GenZ CottageCore social media influencer with a drinking problem. Follow her for self-care tips, dating advice, feminist virtue-signaling, and totes cute snarking on her stuffy family! She even has bunnies! I fully expected a viral dance craze to show up half way through.

This flick feels so damn try-hard, just yearning to be relatable to the Kids These Days, that all of Austen’s prose is stripped away, leaving just the bare skeleton of the story. Why remake Jane Austen when there’s no Jane Austen there? If you’re going update it, go all the way like Clueless (1995) or Bride and Prejudice (2004). Adapting Austen in her own period without her own language — and with ridiculously 21st-century language — is just fucking weird and doesn’t work. Even Austenland (2013) took the idea of Jane Austen and put that in a modern setting in a way that worked delightfully.

The most un-Austen thing about this production is how every character says out-loud what they feel and mean, constantly. There is no subtlety and nothing left unsaid. Actual Jane Austen is incredibly artful at describing social niceties, class differences, and the complex relationships between family members, friends, and lovers, all without being blunt and obvious. This ain’t that. And just like there shouldn’t have been hand-jobs in Sanditon (2019-), there shouldn’t be octopus sex in Persuasion. SRSLY.

If it weren’t for all the fourth-wall-breaking, I might suggest watching this Persuasion with the sound off and just enjoy the pretty scenery and surprisingly decent costumes. I mean, they’re not great but the worst are because of Leading Character Syndrome, where the main character gets annoyingly modernized and/or sexed-up costumes, while the secondary characters look reasonable for the period. Because we called it accurately during Snark Week, and the most egregiously bad costumes are on Anne a la:

Persuasion (2022)

Persuasion (2022)
The little beret also hints at how pathetic the millinery effort is in this movie. Sure, I hate bonnets, but the 1810s are not especially known for berets and fascinators. For example Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is one of Austen’s great characters, and it’s a crime to give her this sorry excuse for a hat.

Persuasion (2022)

I guess this is all we get now? Feather ornaments ‘n shit? * sad trombone *

Persuasion (2022)

The costumes that I found better done are ones I also suspect are recycled from other productions. Lady Russell’s pink pelisse and another pink gown are both from Bright Star (2009), for example, and I wonder if the white embroidered gown Elizabeth Elliot (Yolanda Kettle) wears is from Emma (2020). I don’t see the exact one but it’s similar.

Persuasion (2022)

The extended Elliot family cleans up well, even if the conversation is appalling.

Persuasion (2022)

Costume designer Marianne Agertoft told Vogue that her mood board for this film was full of modern pop-culture references:

“With Dakota as Anne, her stompy boots have something of Debbie Harry in them, the shirting is quite Patti Smith and you see Audrey Hepburn in those jackets with the delicate shoulders. With the other characters, there were lots of paintings and references from the period on the mood board, but I also looked at Katharine Hepburn for Lady Russell, Vincent Cassel for Mr. Elliot, and Bruce Springsteen and Steve McQueen for Captain Wentworth.”

I don’t really see any of that, just more of the stripped-down “jeans and T-shirt” version of historical costume that’s so popular in frock flicks these days. Meaning, they’ll only use the basic historical silhouette, often in floppy, unstructured, “casual” materials, and with none of the details that made a period unique. Ho-hum.

Persuasion (2022)

Is she going for goth Bridgerton? Because, honey, I’ve done it, & this is a sad-sack attempt.

Persuasion (2022)

Henry Golding is wasted here as Mr. Elliot.

Persuasion (2022)

No idea why anyone would pine over Cosmo Jarvis’ Wentworth, esp. in this sorry excuse for a uniform.

 

Love Austen and hate this Persuasion? Love this Persuasion and don’t care about Austen?

69 Responses

  1. Jillian

    Henry Golding should have played Wentworth, but only if the script wasn’t so abhorrently shitty.

    Reply
  2. Jean

    There is no way I’m corrupting myself with this crap! Thank you for taking one for the team.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Virtue

      I watched it while cleaning, and didn’t have great expectations. It was fun for that purpose. If it were a period I knew a lot about, it would probably have bothered me more.

      Reply
    • Kate

      1995 is the read deal. However, I didn’t think of this as Jane and I was able to have fun with it.

      Reply
  3. KateE

    I wanted this to be good. I refused to listen to the nay-sayers. I loved the casting. And then I had to turn it off at the dinner scene. Updated Austen works — this didn’t.

    Reply
  4. Maureen

    I went into this knowing it was more JA-“flavored” than anything else, so I managed not to hate it. What really irritated me was that the writers couldn’t seem to decide whether to use Regency or modern language so they used both, sometimes in the same sentence.

    Reply
  5. Nabilah Safa

    The talking directly into the camera was painful, and the wink. Also gravy on the head scene -_-

    Reply
  6. Rowen G.

    I watched the trailer. Once. I am so not going there. (And Persuasion is my favorite of the estimable Miss Austen’s novels; I think I may watch the ’95 version tonight. Or just pull out my Oxford illustrated edition and re-read it.)

    Reply
  7. Susan

    Thanks for the heads-up. This one will go in the bin with the 1999 Mansfield Park.

    Reply
  8. Aleko

    That isn’t even an “excuse” for a uniform: it’s just an ordinary late 1820s coat WITH THE TRIANGLED LAPEL CORNERS PINNED BACK BY BUTTONING THEM DOWN, JUST LIKE NO REGENCY MAN DID EVER.

    This is a particular pet hate of mine. It started I think with British Napoleonic-period re-enactors, who mostly had their coats badly tailored out of poor-quality wool. Many of the makers didn’t realise that the whole point of fine period wool cloth is that it doesn’t need hemming, and even those who did realise it often weren’t using good enough wool to use a raw edge, so one way or another the lapels were made with cloth and facing cloth stitched together and turned inside out, so there was a big lumpy wad of seam allowance indie the lapel edge. Because of all this the corners of the lapels were just too bulky to stay elegantly triangled unless the wearer buttoned them down. So that’s what they did; and I think the makers for BBC period productions assumed it was authentic and copied them.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      That so-called uniform looked so lumpy & pathetic. A lot of the menswear (the coats that weren’t recycled from other productions at least) was horribly tailored

      Reply
    • Harriet Wagner

      Well said. I don’t know about tailoring or construction of these garments, but I DO know that Wentworth was a POST CAPTAIN rich from prize money. I think it’s inexcusable—even in this “version”—that there is not even a hit of epaulettes or gold braid. Just put him in civilian clothes if you aren’t going to do the uniform justice. He looks like a boatswain rather than a Captain.

      Reply
      • Aleko

        Actually, if you really want authenticity there is no excuse for Captain Wentworth wearing even a scrap of gold lace [pedantry alert: there is no gold “braid” on a RN uniform, and never has been], ever – unless, as in the Hinds-Root version, you add a scene at the end in which he has taken Anne to sea with him, just as he vowed in Chapter 8 that he never ever would do.

        In fact none of the naval characters in the book would be wearing uniform. It was absolutely Not Done for a sea officer to wear uniform when not at sea / in a naval port / about navy business; and Austen, the sister of two sea officers, knew this perfectly well and even made a point of it in Mansfield Park. The bit where Fanny Price longs to see her newly-promoted brother William in his brand-new lieutenant’s uniform (An actual epaulette! White ‘washboards’! Ooh, thrills!) but knows it would be utterly improper for him to put it on till he gets to Portsmouth, surely comes direct from her personal experience.

        Reply
        • Karen K.

          I did not know this about the uniforms! It makes absolute sense though. I love the 1995 Persuasion so I’ll have to look the other way.

          Reply
  9. Lynne Connolly

    I lasted 15 minutes. We should have a competition, “How long did you last before you switched it off?” kind of thing.
    And I just wanted to mention the side parting, and the Great Hairpin Shortage.

    Reply
    • Diana Y.

      I lasted about 2 minutes (Anne swigging drunkenly straight from the bottle). Then I went back later (I watch EVERY Austen adaptation) and made it to about the dinner scene (29 minutes or so). Shut it off for a couple days, then bit the bullet last night and finished it. I was so glad when it was over! This is definitely “the Austen adaptation for those who don’t like (or know) Jane Austen’s work.” And yes, I will judge everyone by whether they like this movie or not.

      Reply
  10. M.E. Lawrence

    Dear goddess. Anne Elliott as depressed pixie dream girl? A friend with very good taste watched it for the production values, but had to admit that the rest was pretty terrible. At least the ladies appear to be managing correct posture. (Except for Dakota J. on that very nice sofa with Harry G. She looks ready to fling herself on top of him, and who could blame her?)

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Skimmed before; went back and read this “…Bruce Springsteen and Steve McQueen for Captain Wentworth.”

      Why? (And do Kids These Days know who Springsteen and McQueen are? And why not Brando-as-Kowalski instead?) I almost want to see this now, because I might fall off a sofa laughing, and that would make me feel better in the midst of socio-political turmoil, etc.

      Reply
  11. Shannon

    The trailer made me want to throw my coffee at the screen. (I thought better of it because one should not abuse coffee.) I will never understand why they make a film based on an Austen novel and then throw everything Austen out of it.

    Reply
  12. MsNomi

    I hope Miss Austen hasn’t hurt herself with all the turning in her grave that she must be doing! I masochistically sat through the whole thing, cringing the entire time, and hearing “Bridgerton” repeating over and over in my head. That beret was the breaking point for me.
    This was definitely the worst thing I’ve seen in quite a while. As far as the actors go, Henry Golding and Richard E. Grant were wasted in this film, and I can’t imagine whoever told Cosmo Jarvis he could act, but they were wrong.

    Reply
  13. Harriet Wagner

    Thank you for this review. I was trying to tell my husband—who doesn’t understand Jane Austen but I have forgiven him—that this version of Persuasion includes precisely none of the things that make Jane Austen great.

    I do have to compliment the casting director for bringing us Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter. That was genius and I can only think of how much greater he would have been had he been allowed to utter some of Austen’s sparkling dialogue that shows us who he is—rather than having him tell us who he is.

    I commented elsewhere on the travesty that was Wentworth’s naval “uniform”. Artistic license is one thing, but that was pathetic. He looked like he shopped at the army-navy store and bought a used midshipman’s coat.

    I felt very talked down to watching this show. It’s like Oliver Stone decided to adapt Austen. Gotta go. This thought is giving me the creeps. I think I’ll go.

    Reply
  14. Sammi

    Mr. Malcolm’s List is the balm for the wounds this will cause in your soul.

    Reply
      • Northcountry gal

        It should be available on most streaming platforms on July 21. Looking forward to your take!

        Reply
  15. Jamie Jo LaMoreaux

    that dratted hairpin shortage! surely there ought to be a telethon to cure this hideous disease by now!?!?! and buttoned down lapels on a British Naval uniform just looks…weird. as do the hats, the costumes, and well everything. a hipster Persuasion is just…wrong. Poor Miss Austen. she must be spinning at warp speed in her grave.

    Reply
  16. Jamie Jo LaMoreaux

    Bridgerton is my new curse word. it was Belgium, but this has superseded it as being worse.

    Reply
  17. Bet

    Oh thank God, I thought I was the only one who hated this. I get what they were going for, but it didn’t work. And the clothes, especially the beret, made me angry.

    Reply
  18. MJ

    So. Many. Thoughts. I watched this on Saturday because I’m laid up after foot surgery, and there wasn’t much else to do. I figured, if it as bad as the reviews, it might at least be worth the deep snarking.

    It is as bad as the reviews, and that’s such a damn shame, because generally it is nice to look at and I couldn’t hate all the casting. Richard E. Grant was a brilliant choice for Sir Walter and I kind of hope someone will ask him to do it again in a much better production. I liked the Elliott sisters, especially the actress playing Mary, who for once I could believe is 1) younger than Anne, and 2) attracted Charles Musgrove enough to capture his broken heart post-Anne (even if she was almost too young…).

    But WHY WHY WHY did anyone think the world needed “Fleabag in 1810” and WHY mess with Persuasion?! Did we not get enough weird narration and fourth-wall-breaking when it Sally Hawkins in the lead? Are there really people who think Anne Elliott isn’t sympathetic enough as Jane Austen wrote her? This kills me. Persuasion was my “in” to Jane Austen’s novels. Anne Elliott was always the heroine I most understood and most liked. This film version takes everything I loved about Anne and decided it was too stuffy, too moralistic, and probably too “unrelatable” and turned her into a sad-sack Carrie Bradshaw that I can’t help hating, and not in a good way.

    This – “Bruce Springsteen and Steve McQueen for Captain Wentworth” – WHAT THE ACTUAL F. Wentworth is a captain in His Majesty’s Navy – is that seriously not enough?!!?!?!

    After watching (and I did – oh, I did, and I cringed and sobbed through every wine-swig and breathy “thanks” and “he’s a ten, i don’t trust a ten”), I queued up Amanda Root and then Sally Hawkins for a thorough palate-cleanse. I may have to continue on with Pride and Prejudice to really succeed in that, though obviously, Jennifer Ehle and not Keira Knightley (whose “excellent boiled potatoes” take on Austen is clearly the mothership for this wackadoo version of Persuasion).

    Reply
    • Diana Y.

      I did the same palate cleanse, but even that was it enough, so I went back to the source. I’ve started reading Persuasion again. I need to see Austen’s words.

      Reply
      • Maureen

        I plan to reread it too (as soon as I finish as least one of the books I’m currently in the middle of).

        Reply
  19. hsc

    Somehow this thing hadn’t registered in my consciousness as even existing, and then I saw articles popping up over the weekend about the negative response, with some saying it was the worst Netflix film ever.

    So I couldn’t wait until Monday because I knew there was going to be something here about it, and you didn’t disappoint.

    Thank you for your bravery and dedication!

    But since there’s no way I’m checking this mess out, and you raised this point– I gotta ask:

    “And just like there shouldn’t have been hand-jobs in Sanditon (2019-), there shouldn’t be octopus sex in Persuasion. SRSLY.”

    Please tell me it’s just an onscreen appearance of that infamous 1814 Japanese woodcut THE DREAM OF THE FISHERMAN’S WIFE, and not– well, anything anybody actually does.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      It’s in a conversation where Anne starts talking about octopuses (WHY?) to Mr. Elliot & then he responds in a suggestive way (WHY?!). They’re alluding to sex in a very obvious & very modern fashion but no there are no octopus to be seen.

      Just one of my many “yelling at the TV” moments, which I haven’t had in a while!

      Reply
      • hsc

        Thanks! That’s a relief that it’s just conversation, I guess, but still– ew.

        Reply
    • Saraquill

      Someone beat me to referencing Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife! I’m glad someone else in the FF community knows of it.

      Reply
  20. Black Tulip

    Oh. My. On behalf of Austen-loving Frockflickers everywhere, can I just say thank you Trystan for taking one for the team.

    I had considered hate-watching this, just to see if it really WAS as bad as the trailer. But then I sternly reminded myself that what is seen cannot be unseen – clearly a good call. So back to the 1995 goodness it is, then.

    As an aside, they were clearly going for gold in the “Shitty Historical Portrait” stakes. Although that’s the least of its worries.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I did find the the portraits funny, but it would have been funnier if they were just there in the background, letting the camera & thus the viewer find them as further proof of Sir Walter Elliot’s vanity — instead of Anne’s dialog pointing them out & saying he’s vain. That’s the big problem with this flick, it over-explains everything that could be shown.

      Reply
  21. Cynthia Virtue

    When reading your Austenland review, I spotted a recycled gown.
    The one you captioned as Amilia sewing is worn with a different colored undergown (pea green?) by Anne’s sister when she tries to impress Mr. Elliot /Golding.

    Reply
  22. Mary

    I can’t even bring myself to watch the trailer. It’s just annoyingly anachronistic and disrespectful. Jane Austen was an amazingly clever writer, end deserves to have her dialogue used in her adaptations. It’s abominably rude of them to think they can tell the story so much better with their own dialogue. Similar to Agatha Christie adaptations where they change the murderer, like I’m sorry, do you seriously think you can do murder mystery better than AC??? No.

    Reply
  23. Brandy Loutherback

    They completely misrepresented the character of Anne! She was a complex, reticent character in the book. Here, she’s a boozy Lizzie Bennet. It’s like trying to fit a circle in a square shaped hole! Our girl Jane is doing somersaults in her grave!

    Reply
  24. Janet Elaine Nickerson

    This program popped up on so many FB rabbit pages because the heroine has a bunny! Probably the only enthusiasm this program generated.

    Reply
  25. Perian

    Am I the only one who just doesn’t understand Dakota Johnson in, well, anything? She seems the blandest of bland actresses.

    Reply
  26. Orian Hutton

    What does the character of Anne Elliot have to do with Debbie Harry, Patti Smith or even Audrey Hepburn? Everyone involved in this production seems completely clueless and apparently have never read ‘Persuasion’.

    Reply
  27. Laura

    Cosmo Jarvis is like the rabbit : he has no idea of what he’s doing in that movie !

    Reply
  28. Amy

    Persuasion is my favorite of Austen’s works, with Anne and Wentworth being my favorite heroine and hero…

    I knew that this wouldn’t be my version of Persuasion and that it was most likely I would find it poorly done, but I was surprised at just how many levels of awful this was. I’m embarrassed for everyone involved, but more so am sad to have been so condescended to by writing that was insultingly immature.

    Due to how almost everyone seems to dislike this, I really hope that the Sarah Snook Persuasion that was announced way back when this was(and apparently cancelled thereafter, assumedly because of big-shiny-Netflix-version…) will come back into play. No doubt it would be received well if they can do it right!

    Reply
  29. Karen K.

    I have an irrational (or rational?) dislike of Dakota Johnson and her makeup just makes me angry. I really wanted to be proven wrong because I love Richard E. Grant and Henry Golding and would have loved it if this turned out to be good. Everything I’ve heard is so disappointing, I suspect I’ll skip it rather than throw something at the TV in a fit of pique.

    And now I’m even more annoyed that they cancelled the Sarah Snook/Joel Fry version. Harrumph.

    Reply
  30. Emily

    NO NO NO NO NO
    NO.
    This is a travesty. I will not submit myself to travesties, thank you.
    This is such crappy crappiness.

    Reply
  31. Theresa Skala

    When the letter was read directly to the camera, I shut it off. I am surprised I made it that long but that was the last straw. This is an Austen adaption I will not rewatch.

    Reply
  32. Erica Melchin

    I drank bourbon and livetweeted my watch of it. Involving alcohol did not help me retain my sanity, because the phrase “I am the octopus and I’m sucking my own face” will haunt me to my dying day.

    What frustrated me was that at rare moments they would let Anne actually be Anne and Dakota Johnson carried it well, and then it was back to drinking and sarcasm. Which describes me, but not Anne Elliot.

    But Richard Grant made for a delightfully absurd Sir Walter. Small blessings and all that.

    Reply
  33. 992234177

    I enjoyed this but I’m not sure why, Grant was vain but I see him as more arrogant of his rank. The sisters were awful, they were pantomime sisters and nobody seemed to remember who Wentworth was to Anne.

    Reply
    • August

      I just… I had fun with it, and the visuals were gorgeous, but it’s not Jane Austen. Enjoyable, but not in the context of an adaptation.

      Reply
  34. Anna

    I saw the trailer for it and just cringed. Persuasion is my favourite of Austen’s works, and I just couldn’t even bear to finish watching the trailer.

    Reply
  35. Dana Lockwood

    I loved it. I took it for what it was- not an Austen movie, and that was perfectly ok. I did think the beret was stupid. I enjoyed her narcissistic younger sister, very funny. Johnson was thoughtful and gorgeous. Her timing was nice. The more quiet dialogue was really lovely. Take it for what it is.

    Also- I’m not sure what’s up with the Gen-Z reference, Johnson herself is 32 and her character is 27.

    Reply

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