Can this new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel staring Dakota Johnson impress critics?
The Guardian: ** “Jane Austen books shouldn’t be holy writ for adaptations: the Clueless movie and Curtis Sittenfeld’s underrated comic novel Eligible show how you can take a free hand. And this film’s Bridgerton-style diverse casting arguably engages with the novel’s historical themes of imperial entitlement, properties in the West Indies, naval plunder and privateering. But there is something smug and misconceived and unpersuasive about it.”
Deadline: “You can practically hear director Cracknell cracking the whip on the actors to keep up the pace, to the extent that there’s scarcely a leisurely moment to be found in this propulsive, if somewhat scattershot and sometimes misguided, entertainment. At the very least, there is the constant welcome presence of Johnson, who gamely soldiers through the inspired and sometimes misguided aspects of this production and keeps it more or less on track. It’s unfaithful fun.”
The Observer: * “Cracknell beefs up the humour by having Johnson repeatedly make winking eye contact with the camera. It’s such a tone-deaf device, demonstrating so little sensitivity to the delicate precision of Austen’s writing, that you wonder why she didn’t just go the whole hog and bung in some comedy trombone quacks and an audience laugh track.”
The Independent: * “Above all, at no point during Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut do you ever get the sense that anyone’s actually read Persuasion. For those with even the slightest affinity for Austen’s work, it’s vaguely mortifying to watch – seeing one of her most beautifully moulded protagonists, a sorrowful vessel hounded by the ghosts of lost love, stripped of her poetry and reduced to an Instagram caption about the pitfalls of millennial dating.”
Radio Times: ** “The screenplay from Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow is the biggest offender. The film strains to fit 21st-century phrases and aphorisms into almost every conversation – “It’s often said that if you’re a five in London, you’re a 10 in Bath” is a particularly notable example – but it all seems so forced and deliberate, more annoying and jarring than it is charming or inventive.”
Entertainment Weekly: “It’s never really clear why director Carrie Cracknell, whose resumé is primarily in British theater, felt compelled to portray the setting so faithfully and with such high production values — some artistic debt certainly seems owed to the rolling moors and sun-dazzled closeups of Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride & Prejudice — but put so little trust in the actual material, or at least in her viewer.”
Hollywood Reporter: “Jane Austen purists will be aghast, but if you go with director Carrie Cracknell’s playful makeover of the author’s ruminative last completed novel into a buoyant Regency rom-com, you could be pleasantly surprised. Freely mixing language lifted from Austen’s prose with distinctly modern words and attitudes — this is a movie in which someone is described as “electrifying” in a pre-electric age — Persuasion is sufficiently bold and consistent with its flagrant liberties to get away with them. It also helps that the novel’s long-suffering protagonist, Anne Elliot, has been given irrepressible spirit and an irreverent sense of irony in Dakota Johnson’s incandescent performance.”
The Evening Standard: ** “Still, the supporting cast are good value, particularly Mia McKenna Bruce as Anne’s outrageously discontented and diva-ish sister Mary, and Nia Towleas Louisa, the desperately bright young thing who, literally, throws herself at Wentworth.”
Slant Magazine: “So bewildering is this approach that even when the film, as written by Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, does adhere to the more tender, ruminative, mournful quality of the book, it makes the most accurate representations of the text feel out of place. Johnson’s performance finds solid footing when she isn’t incessantly winking and her character is making vulnerable attempts at reconciliation with Frederick. These moments tend to involve the pair, in cliché fashion, standing off alone on a beach staring wistfully into the distance and admitting their mutual regrets, but the muted agony that hangs between them is palpable.”
The Wrap: “Screenwriters Ron Bass (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”) and Alice Victoria Winslow (“Hot Spot”) have given one of Austen’s more demure heroines the “Fleabag” treatment. Luckily for them, the cast and crew manage to pull it off.”
The Telegraph: ** “Netflix’s adaptation comes with dreary dialogue and almost a total disregard for its supposed source material.”
Persuasion is out in cinemas now and heads to Netflix on the 15th July.