Jane Austen’s Persuasion is one of my favourite books. It’s a toss up for me whether I like Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion more. In 1995 there was a near perfect Persuasion adaptation made by the BBC, starring Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciaran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth.
I can’t tell you how often I have watched this version of Persuasion, I just love it. I also love how into the ending they also incorporated a little bit of the ending Jane Austen had orginially written before she changed it to the current ending (which is much better and contains that beautiful letter). If you’ve seen this adaptation, it’s the scene near the end where Captain Wentworth comes to speak to Anne in the name of his Admiral Croft and asks painfully whether Anne is indeed to marry her cousin Mr. Elliot. They are interrupted and she can never answer but that little scene is so nicely incorporated into the plot. I could go on about this adaptaion for ages, but I won’t right now.
In 2007 ITV made another adaptation with Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Frederick.
While the main actors were lovely, some of the supporting cast was not (most notably the one who played Anne’s sister Mary) and they gave some good quotes out of sequence to other characters (why?). Also, what was up with the mad dash Anne did at the end through Bath? Despite it’s deficiencies I have gone back to this adaptation now and again and I like it well enough.
I even got my hands on a 1971 miniseries of Persuasion starring Ann Firbank as Anne and Bryan Marshall as Frederick.
Ann Firbank, by the way, was also with Richard Armitage in The Crucible.
That Persuasion version I only saw once, it was quite close to the book if I recall correctly but also slow moving and a little too serene. I did like Firbank and Marshall in their roles, though, with the right amount of unease and awkwardness and long silent looks.
There is also a 1960 miniseries, but according to Wikipedia that version is most likely lost. Seeing how popular Emma or Pride and Prejudice are, there haven’t been quite as many Persuasion adaptations but it looks like that is changing.
There is a new Persuasion movie in the making, starring Sarah Snook and Joel Fry. I’ve never heard of Sarah Snook before but I do ‘know’ Joel Fry from his supporting role in the fun movie Yesterday. The actors do look interesting, I hope they’ll be good and that the story/movie will be good as well.
There’s also a Netflix Persuasion movie in the making, starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot. Apparently it’s a modern retelling of the story and just yesterday I read that it will also star Henry Golding as Anne’s cousin Mr. Elliot. Gotta say I could see him in the role of Frederick as well. I really like Henry Golding.
No mention yet on who will play Frederick, so I am very curious to find that out. I’m also feeling a bit iffy about this project. Will it be any good? I’m neutral on Dakota Johnson but not so neutral on modern setting remakes. I’ve seen a few and many are not so great. Most notably, in the recent two or three years, Hallmark has been making some modern setting Austen movies that are loosely based on Jane Austen’s novels (though no Persuasion as yet) and they are all terrible. Sometimes I only recognize the names, the characters just aren’t there and the stories are so bare bone Austen, you could hardly call them Austen either.
Yesterday I watched another modern Austen adaptation made last year, this time a Persuasion one which is not Hallmark, but not far off that mark either. It’s called Modern Persuasion (uninspired title) and nope, that movie really wasn’t it. It tried a little too hard to be witty (although some jokes did make me smile). The story was there, the characters sort of as well but I have no idea why it was necessary to change the names so much. Anne Elliot (played by Alicia Witt) was called Wren Cosgrove and Frederick Wentworth (played by Shane McRae) was called Owen Jasper (really, how is that an improvement?). Witt was alright, even if a little too pouty, but McRae sadly had no Wentworth charisma whatsover, he looked uncomfortable in the role.
I have a feeling that the man who played the Captain Benwick character (actor Dominic Rains), named Sam Benson here, would have made a much better Captain Wentworth or Owen Jasper as he was called here.
I found most of this movie to be awkward, I hope the modern Netflix version that is being filmed will be much better than this.
There are a few good modern adaptations of Austen novels out there. I quite loved the Bollywood meets Hollywood Bride and Prejudice, I loved Bridget Jones’s Diary, I loved the YouTube webseries The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Clueless is a pretty good modern Emma adaptation. Heck, I even (very surprisingly) enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that, despite being a costume drama, is very modern with the zombies added in. I so hope the new Persuasion set in modern times adaptation can fit in with those and won’t be like the Hallmark ones or the Modern Persuasion movie I just saw. The more traditional Persuasion that is being filmed has big shoes to fill and I have slightly higher hopes for that one. In any case, I am quite happy these adaptations are coming and I’m looking forward to seeing them.