All Agony, No Hope: Don’t Watch Netflix’s ‘Persuasion’

The new adaptation of Jane Austen premiered on July 15. | Netflix

“I am half agony, half hope.” These bittersweet words are perhaps the most memorable in Jane Austen’s latest novel, “Persuasion.” Unfortunately, Netflix’s new adaptation of “Persuasion” is all agony and no hope.

As an Austen purist, this movie was outrageous. It is historically inaccurate and very different from Austen’s more mature and introspective novel. But, even for viewers who have never read a Jane Austen novel, it is just as underwhelming and forgettable. Netflix’s “Persuasion” is a bad, boring and embarrassing movie. Contrary to Austen’s trademark writing style, the film is not witty, clever, or inspiring, although like several of the film’s characters, it tries desperately to be.

In line with the current trend of modernizing period dramas, “Persuasion” unsuccessfully follows the “Bridgerton” formula: aesthetic visuals, English accents, a pop music soundtrack disguised as classical, and political correctness designed to right the wrongs. of the early nineteenth century. customs and culture of the century. But unlike the modern, substantive source material of Bridgerton’s books, Jane Austen’s works are literary masterpieces with universal themes and lessons that transcend time and need no modernization. They deserve respect and dignity, and should not pass themselves off as cheap material for Hollywood to promote its politically correct agenda and attempt to redefine female virtue.

To set the stage, “Persuasion” star Anne Elliot is in her early twenties and unmarried, making her a lifelong spinster and the subject of ridicule by her vain and uncaring family. She was once in love with a charming young sailor, but he had no rank or fortune and was therefore an impractical choice. Anne was forced to give him up and wait for a more advantageous partner, but she has been pining for him for the past eight years. But her spendthrift father’s disgrace proved to be Anne’s greatest blessing, as he forced her and her lost lover, Captain Frederick Wentworth, back together.

The most alarming part of this movie was Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anne Elliot. Johnson’s Anne almost immediately breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the audience as she makes direct eye contact with the camera. She feels awkward and unnatural instead of intriguing the audience and giving a glimpse into Anne’s more introspective moments. She is constantly winking, smiling, and rolling her eyes at the audience, as she inserts trendy terms and phrases. “Wentworth and I are strangers. Worse than strangers,” she says. “We are exes.” She later says of another suitor: “He’s a 10. I never trust a 10.”

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This insertion of modernity negates the reason our culture is obsessed with period dramas: to escape our harsh reality of confused gender roles in love and marriage. This movie pokes fun at ridiculous men who spend all their money, are obsessed with their outward appearance, and “mistreat” the women around them. But, while Anne rejects her or Wentworth’s need for romance, she simultaneously blames him for not fighting for her affection and running away from her feelings. The paradox that is Netflix’s Anne highlights the many contradictions of the modern feminist agenda.

Junior Alexandra Gess expressed her disappointment with the film, saying that, unsurprisingly, the Netflix adaptation is a flop.

“I think Netflix’s adaptation of ‘Persuasion’ absorbed the proverbial beauty, spirit and life of a masterful and beloved story in an effort to update a timeless classic,” he said. “It was a tactless, lackluster, and pretty lousy attempt to make a period piece more palatable to the postmodern 21st century.”

What is perhaps more worrying is that “Persuasion” follows in the footsteps of the 1999 interpretation of “Mansfield Park” by transforming the protagonist into someone completely unrecognizable from the original text. The calm, mature, introspective, dignified and selfless original work of Anne of Austen becomes a haughty, emotional, sarcastic and self-centered character in the Netflix adaptation. Instead of lovingly serving those around her and bearing her pain in a private and dignified way, Johnson’s Anne is a borderline alcoholic who pouts and amuses herself by mocking her ridiculous family. Similarly, “Mansfield Park” transformed Austen’s quiet, humble heroine Fanny Price into a confident, boisterous boss and warrior for social justice.

In an age that cries out for the acceptance and glorification of diversity, why do all heroines of period dramas have to be the same? Why are each of these characters, written specifically to reflect real women with different personality types, flaws, and dreams, transformed into sarcastic feminists who couldn’t care less about the virtues and privileges of womanhood, family, and society? tradition?

Recent iterations of beloved Austen tales, like the 2020 version of “Emma” or the retelling of “Lady Susan” through the Amazon original series “Love and Friendship,” show that intricate and meaningful text can be transposed for our modern uncut society. corners, injecting painfully obvious doses of 21st century life, or completely changing the main characters and the overall message of the story.

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While ‘Persuasion’ is certainly a difficult text to fully capture on film, as much of the tension between Anne and Wentworth is unspoken and relies heavily on past interactions not written by Austen, the Netflix adaptation nor doesn’t even try to recreate the slow burn and suspense. of her love story. Unlike the book, Anne and Wentworth seem to easily fall in love with other characters without thinking about their seemingly deep connection, and while the audience can tell they will eventually fall in love again, the final resolution feels stunted and rushed. It is questionable whether Anne in the film really loves Wentworth after telling her friend, “I would have been a much happier woman if I kept him than if I left him.”

This Anne is absorbed in her own happiness instead of loving and admiring Wentworth’s noble and loyal character. Anne’s unhappiness ultimately feels cheap, like caring for an injured pet out of boredom, rather than the true remorse and despair that Austen’s Anne so strictly portrays in the novel.

The only nice aspects of this movie are, like Bridgerton, the costumes and the scenery. Anne’s sister, Mary, provides comic relief from the monotony through her adoption of goofy jokes and modern catchphrases. “The thing is, I’m an empath,” she knowingly explains to Anne. “What I have realized is that I need to fall in love with myself first and then I can truly love those around me. Inserting modern humor and ideals into a period drama, of course, deserves a laugh, because it’s just ridiculous. Therefore, the only funny parts of “Persuasion” are cheaply included by the producers, and are a poor substitute for the subtle and witty social satire for which Jane Austen is remembered.

Reception for “Persuasion” has been largely negative, earning just a 32% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and professional film reviews. We can only hope that Hollywood stops screwing up timeless classics and produces content that leaves young women and girls with a distorted image of femininity.

So if you think you can handle an awkward, confusing, and infuriatingly predictable movie, check out “Persuasion.” But hopefully, I’ve persuaded you not to

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