an illustration of Persuasion character Anne Elliot
Illustration by Olivia Woolfrey, Ringling College of Art and Design

Despite Mixed Reactions, Netflix’s ‘Persuasion’ Is a Worthwhile Jane Austen Adaptation

Though the newly released period piece diverges from the classic 1800s novel, it still has much to offer.

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an illustration of Persuasion character Anne Elliot
Illustration by Olivia Woolfrey, Ringling College of Art and Design

Though the newly released period piece diverges from the classic 1800s novel, it still has much to offer.

Period pieces are becoming super popular and I, for one, am very excited. Recently, we have seen the release of two popular period pieces: “Bridgerton” and “Emma” (2020). Now, we have “Persuasion,” a Netflix adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jane Austen.

“Persuasion” is said to be a “modern retelling” of Austen’s work: “Living with her snobby family on the brink of bankruptcy, Anne Elliot is an unconforming woman with modern sensibilities. When Fredrick Wentworth — the dashing one she once sent away — crashes back into her life, Anne must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances.” The title “Persuasion” comes from the fact that Anne’s parents persuaded her to leave the love of her life when she was 19.

Director Carrie Cracknell decided to modernize this retelling of the famous novel because she wanted to bring a new audience to Austen’s work and make viewers feel that they could really recognize the people onscreen.

The “Persuasion” movie trailer was released on June 14, and fans had mixed feelings. A New York Times article noted that “viewers objected to the flashes of contemporary language (‘exes,’ ‘a 10’) and the moments in which Dakota Johnson, who plays the heroine, Anne Elliot, addresses the camera directly.” Cracknell defended her new adaptation, arguing: “The film was made with a massive amount of love and attention to the source material and a really openhearted respect for Jane Austen. There’s been no attempt to dismantle the original material.”

Persuasion starring Dakota Johnson | Official Trailer | Netflix

The “Persuasion” cast includes Dakota Johnson as Anne, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth, Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russell and Mia McKenna-Bruce as Mary Musgrove. Some additional cast members include Suki Waterhouse, Ben Bailey, Izuka Hoyle, Nia Towle, Edward Bluemel, Lydia Rose Bewley and Yolanda Kettle.

Johnson explained that she thinks her character closely resembles the famous author: “I really felt like Anne Elliot is maybe the most like her — like Austen. In her prose, she’s sort of winking and nodding to the reader.”

The film was released on July 15, 2022, and has received a rating of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I do not agree with. However, I may be biased since I like modern interpretations of classic pieces, such as the Netflix series “Bridgerton.”

I do understand what fans meant when they said, “The problem with Persuasion isn’t that the movie gets the plot wrong, it’s that it doesn’t convey how it feels to read the book.” Yet, it is difficult for a director to take hundreds of pages from a book and cut it down to a two-hour movie. When you take such a classic novel and make it into a movie, there are bound to be die-hard fans who dislike some scenes.

Another problem fans had with “Persuasion” is: “Instead of keeping her emotions under the surface, Johnson’s Anne lets everything out. She flops on her bed, drinks to forget, and shouts Wentworth’s name at him from an open window. She smirks at the camera when her sister Mary annoys her, instead of just enduring her company, like a dutiful and single older sister must.”

Fans also thought the film “bypassed Austen’s superlative grasp of subtext and instead has characters explicitly explain their feelings, opinions and schemes to each other.” I really liked the movie but have never read the book, so I cannot really speak on this critique.

If you watch this movie and it doesn’t resonate with you, there are other Jane Austen adaptations that may be more up your alley, such as “Pride and Prejudice” (2005 and 1995 versions), “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma” (1996 and 2020 versions), “Mansfield Park” and “Northanger Abbey.”

Don’t let the Rotten Tomatoes rating deter you from watching “Persuasion.” If you enjoy period pieces, this is definitely worth the watch.

Writer Profile

Morgan Thomas

Wayne State University
Print and Online Journalism

My name is Morgan Thomas and I am a senior at Wayne State University. I am majoring in print and online journalism and I have a minor in film.

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