July 15, 2022
Dakota Johnson, Henry Golding, Richard E. Grant
Eight years after Anne Elliot was persuaded not to marry a dashing man of humble origins, they meet again. Will she seize her second chance at true love?
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Persuasion features a truly wonderful Dakota Johnson in the lead role, which for her performance alone is reason enough to watch this film on Netflix, even if the modern update of Jane Austen’s story has mixed results.
Jane Austen’s stories are timeless, and there will never not be a time where they are remade and updated for new audiences. So many famous actors have included Austen films on their resume, such as Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Alicia Silverstone, and now Dakota Johnson join their ranks.
Starring as Anne Elliot, Johnson is a revelation as she carries the entire film on her shoulders, making it look like the easiest thing imaginable. Regardless of the role she is in, Johnson always has a witt and charm to her, which makes her a perfect fit for Anne. Ranging a wide variety of emotions throughout the film, truly opening herself to love and making Anne vulnerable at every moment, it’s impossible not to feel for Johnson’s character throughout the film as she navigates her long lost love re-entering her life. Whether it be breaking the fourth wall and directly speaking to the audience, quietly pining for Fred Wentworth from afar, or causing mischief as she is her honest self while defying societal expectations for her, Johnson is magnetic and holds your attention for the entire film. If anything, Johnson proves that she can handle herself in any role and deliver nothing short of a marvellous performance, solidifying herself as one of the most versatile and talented young actresses currently working in Hollywood today. If only the rest of the film was as outstanding as Johnson’s performance.
The film follows Anne as she grapples with her long lost love, Fred Wentworth, re-entering her life eight years after she was persuaded by her late mother’s best friend to leave him as he could not offer a life that Anne deserved. For this version of the film, the screenwriters give this timeless Austen tale a modern update, while keeping it set in the nineteenth century. We see Anne portrayed as a modern day woman, providing a character for modern audiences to relate with and displaying how Austen’s female characters stand the test of time. The modern updating of the dialogue at times makes the story more accessible to audiences, and with a great cast, there are some truly wonderful moments of verbal jousting as the intricate relationships play out between characters. At the same time, the modern update of the story clashes with the film’s setting, creating a tonally inconsistent film that is only elevated by some choices in the film’s screenplay.
The screenplay constantly features Johnson breaking the fourth wall to detail her inner thoughts and feelings, which is a neat trick to avoid the narration that normally accompanies an Austen adaptation. There are moments where this technique is brilliant, allowing Johnson to shine with her natural wit and humour, especially when describing her nutty sisters. However, Johnson spends about half of the film breaking the fourth wall, which unfortunately squanders the effectiveness of the technique, making it a repetitive annoyance as it interrupts the flow of the story, especially in the first act.