Persuasion Parent Guide
Fans of period romances will find laughter and love in this story. Hardcore Austen fans are more likely to see it as a travesty.
Parent Movie Review
Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) is a dutiful young woman with a broken heart. Eight years ago, she became engaged to Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a dashing young sailor without title or fortune. Under pressure from her practical godmother (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and status-obsessed father (Richard E Grant), she broke off the engagement. Wentworth went to sea, where he found fame and wealth. Anne stayed home to nurse her sorrows and drink a little too much wine.
Sir Walter Elliot is now in dire financial straits. In order to save money, he decides to lease the family estate and live more cheaply in the fashionable seaside town of Bath. As fate would have it, his new tenant is Admiral Croft (Stewart Scudamore), brother-in-law to Wentworth. With Anne currently staying at the nearby home of her sister Mary (Mia McKenna-Bruce), she will once again be in company with her ex-fiancée. Still in love with Wentworth, Anne isn’t sure if she can bear to see him again, not knowing if his feelings have faded with time or remain as strong as her own…
There are two responses to this film - one for casual fans of period drama; the other for hardcore Jane Austen fans. First, for regular moviegoers: This adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion somehow transmutes a tender tale of steadfast love into a sardonic romance mixed with social commentary about structural misogyny. Dakota Johnson is a witty, spirited Anne Elliot, repeatedly sharing her frank opinions with her self-absorbed family members and, more often, with the audience. Cosmo Jarvis provides a suitably handsome Captain Wentworth, who emotes very nicely with his expressive eyes, and less effectively with his voice. This isn’t the swooniest petticoat romance ever filmed, but it’s satisfactory and is unlikely to offend anyone looking for an amusing period production.
Now for Jane Austen fans. (Confession: this includes me.) As Austen addicts know, there is no standout adaptation of Persuasion and this version is nowhere close to being the masterpiece longed for by fans. Director Carrie Cracknell repeatedly misfires in this production, but nowhere more egregiously than in the character of Anne Elliot. The Anne of Austen’s classic novel is a woman of remarkable poise, maturity, and serenity, attributes hard won through profound reflection and consistent emotional self-discipline. I suspect Ms. Cracknell doesn’t believe that modern audiences will find such a character either believable or interesting, so she has given us a 21st century version of a self-described “thriving” single woman. This Anne Elliot is self-pitying, snarky, and prone to drowning her sorrows in alcohol. She’s also observant, acerbic, and very funny. But she’s not the Anne that Austen fans expect to see on screen.
Changes to other characters are less extreme. Mr. William Elliot (Henry Golding) becomes more sexily flirtatious and his motivations less mysterious as the novel’s subplot involving Mrs. Smith disappears completely. As for the Elliot family, all nuance is erased and they move from being ridiculous social climbers to raging narcissists. Pushing these characters into self-parody is funny and might create a distraction from the show’s other errors. Sadly, it didn’t distract me, and I spent the movie’s runtime wincing as one historically inaccurate event or phrase after another trotted across the screen. I suspect that my fellow Janeites will have widely diverging reactions to the film. Some will see it as a breath of fresh air; others as a travesty. As for me, you can’t persuade me that it’s anything more than a lost opportunity.Directed by Carrie Cracknell. Starring Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, and Nikki Amuka-Bird. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release July 15, 2022. Updated July 14, 2022
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Rating & Content Info
Why is Persuasion rated PG? Persuasion is rated PG by the MPAA for some suggestive references.
Violence: A man returns from hunting carrying dead animals which are only seen briefly. A character falls and sustains a head injury.
Sexual Content: Men and women are seen kissing, sometimes passionately. There is some mild sexual innuendo. There is a brief joke about adultery.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character frequently drinks alcohol to soothe her emotions. Adults drink wine with meals.
Page last updated July 14, 2022
Persuasion Parents' Guide
Why did Anne break off the engagement in the first place? What kind of power did fathers have over their daughters in her era? Was Lady Russell correct in describing marriage as “transactional” for women? What other economic options were available for gentlewomen of that time?
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This film is based on Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. Other beloved novels by the author include Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense & Sensibility.
In Ardently, author Caitlin Williams combines elements of Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice to give Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy a second chance.
If you dream of immersing yourself in Jane Austen’s world, you can try Shannon Hale’s Austenland. Her protagonist, Jane Hayes, is besotted with Mr. Darcy so she travels to England to stay at Austenland, a resort where she can dress in period costume and meet charming Regency gentlemen.
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There are two other feature length adaptations of Persuasion. The 1995 version stars Amanda Root who offers a faithful depiction of Anne Elliot as she appears in the novel. Ciaran Hinds, however, is a disappointing Frederick Wentworth. The 2007 version features Sally Hawkins as a very twitchy, frequently gulping Anne. Rupert Penry-Jones shines as Captain Wentworth in this film.
The story has also been adapted for the 21st century in Modern Persuasion, a story about Wren, a PR executive who must deal with her ex-boyfriend in a business setting.
Another Jane Austen novel, Emma. has been adapted with a similarly light-hearted tone but less parody. Love & Friendship takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to adapting Austen’s novella, Lady Susan.
More Austen feature length adaptations include Emma (1996), Sense & Sensibility, and Pride & Prejudice.
For more period romance with race-blind casting, you can watch Mr. Malcolm’s List. It also has a semi-farcical tone.
In The Lake House, the novel Persuasion is a plot point in the time-bending love story.