Persuasion 2022

So, I have said before that I am a sucker for a Persuasion adaptation. I think that together with Pride and Prejudice it is my favourite Jane Austen novel. The new 2022 Netflix version arrived just before I went on holiday and I got around to watching it during my holiday as soon as I had the time and headspace for it.

It stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Frederick Wentworth, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russel and the marvelous Henry Golding as William Elliot.

I saw that the movie was trashed in reviews and in honesty I didn’t think it was that bad. It wasn’t great but not bad. I don’t mind adaptations veering off from the original source as long as it is well done and I have been very pleasantly surprised with some modern takes on books I love (like, for instance, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), so I thought I could maybe enjoy this too. I read this review on Roger Ebert and I think it is the review I most agree with. I especially liked what it said about it being a pop-culture full-circle moment:

If anything, director Carrie Cracknell’s “Persuasion” achieves an intriguing pop-culture full-circle moment. Austen influenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and now Bridget herself seems to have influenced Dakota Johnson’s thoroughly charming portrayal of Anne Elliot. There’s lots of drinking red wine straight from the bottle, crying in the tub and lying around in bed, narrating her romantic woes with a familiar, self-effacing wit. She also repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, “Fleabag”-style, with an amusingly dry aside or a well-timed eye roll. Anne jokes that she’s “thriving,” and clearly she is anything but, but she’s so winning in her state of loss that we can’t help but root for her.

Warning: read on from here at your own discretion as there are some spoilers ahead (and pert opinions) in this review!

So, yes, this Anne is a little less, well Anne, and more Bridget Jones and once you get over that it’s OK. I didn’t even mind the fourth wall thing so much either, it gave a nice background narration to the story. I also read a lot of criticism on the language like Anne calling Frederick her “ex”, which yes, was weird, but, apart from it raising my eyebrows now and again, I could get over that and it really didn’t bother me so much. Some of the modernisms even really amused me, like Anne showing the ‘playlist’ Frederick had once put together for her.

I did like Dakota Johnson as this Anne, even though she’s not the Anne I envision, but that’s all down to the script in this version of the story. However, this Anne also did have some awful moments, like for instance that scene at the dinner party where she blurts out that she was proposed to by someone else. The Anne I know would never have said that and even for this Anne it was a very nonsensical thing to do. So yes, there were some real misses here in the script. And yes, she may have been a little snide and too self-satisfied with her own cleverness, but I could laugh at that. Overall I did like this Anne well enough and didn’t even mind her love affair with the wine bottle.

I also really liked Richard E. Grant in this, he is perfect as Anne’s very vain father, Sir Walter…

… and Nikki Amuka-Bird did a nice job of being Anne’s confidante.

The scene stealer in every scene he was in, though, was Henry Golding. So charming and a little wicked and smart. I swear he could level anyone with just one arrogant look. And that crinkle nose thing he does is irresistible!

In a link Herba shared on Twitter, he is one of the names mentioned for possibly being considered as the new James Bond. I’m not a huge Bond fan but for Henry Golding I would go see it on the big screen.

I also liked spoiled sister Mary played by Mia McKenna-Bruce. In the 2007 TV adaptation she was awful, but this Mary was quite perfect in being very annoying and self-centered and in all her spoiled mumblings she occasionally even did make sense. I love that line about men always getting out of disagreeable things, I’m really glad they kept that line in here.

So, with quite a few positives, what are the negatives you ask? Well, first and foremost that was Captain Wentworth for me. What a boring sap he was in this! I really couldn’t understand what made Anne pine for him so. What makes Wentworth Wentworth is that he has lost his youthful innocence, he has hardened and has become a self-assured man of the world whose pride was deeply wounded when Anne rejected him in the past. He is hell-bent on erasing her from his life, he perfectly hides his vulnerabilities and he is dismissive of Anne and yet in little miniscule details you get the suspicion he still cares for her and can’t quite let her go. The miracle of Wentworth is that he at the end can let go of his hurt and can soften again.

This Wentworth had nowhere near the stature of man of the world, despite his uniform, but I could forgive that. What I couldn’t forgive was his mooning all over the place instead of trying his best to ignore Anne. This just didn’t seem like a man who had grown in the intervening years since the break up. There was a scene at the beach where he wants to be friends with Anne again. What on earth was that about? It was absolutely cringeworthy. I think the “We’re worse than exes, we’re friends” bit may have been the absolute low point. Cosmo Jarvis is, I am sure, a gifted actor but this sappy puppy-dog-eyed Wentworth and his seeking Anne’s friendship was so not it!

From the first meeting he was just too openly soft with her and that just did not feel right. I feared then that this was not my kind of Captain Wentworth and as the film progressed I was sadly proved right. It’s a pretty bad scritping idea when you take away the central tension between Anne and Frederick in Persuasion.

I know it’s tough to touch on the standard of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth in the 1995 adaptation but even other adaptations I have seen, whether good or bad, they at least did get Wentworth right. This adaptation totally didn’t.

And that magical letter scene at the end. Oh man, why did they have to mess with Jane Austen in that? The 2007 version was awful, the 1995 version was perfection…

… and this version was… meh… I mean, the kissing and hugging were fine (and that end song was very fitting and sweet) but the letter just wasn’t.

So, yeah, I could get over the character of Anne being different and the modernizations but I just could not get over Wentworth and the dynamic with Anne just not being right. That dynamic is supposed to be the heart of the story and it really wasn’t. I admit images at the end were evocative…

…. but other than that I’m sure the Mr. Elliot in this Persuasion would have been way more interesting for this Anne, he was the only one who could match her wit and insights and even playfulness.

OK, maybe not, as he is devious and slimy, so maybe Anne would have been better off with neither of these men and best on her own.

In ranking the Persuasion adaptations I have seen, I thought a Modern Persuasion Hallmark style version from 2020 was the absolut lowest of the lowest, the 2007 adaptation was pretty disastrous in some areas but with a few highlights (and Rupert Penry-Jones being the most watchable part in that), this adaptation was semi-alright, the 1971 adaptation was alright, but over long and somewhat stiff, and for me the 1995 Persuasion safely remains the best adaptation of the story so far.

A Zoey jukebox

The other day I mentioned watching Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. On and off, some of the songs and their connected scenes in the TV series have been playing in my mind. So, I thought I’d share here as well. All the videos are quite short, most songs are between a minute and a minute and a half long (or around two minutes max), so quite perfect for quick musical fixes.

In the show, the father (Peter Gallagher) of main character Zoey (Jane Levy) has a rare disease that causes him to lose his muscular faculties. From the beginning it is clear that he won’t have long to live as he sits rigid and silent on the couch, only able to look and take in but not able to communicate with those around him. As Zoey can hear people’s innermost feelings in song hallucinations (that no one else can hear or see) she also unexpectedly is able to connect with her father in song. It was such a powerful moment for me to see her communicate with her father again. It really struck a chord as my father too was not able to communicate well with us in his final years and I would have rejoiced at such a moment that Zoey is able to have with her dad.

I already shared my favourite dad and daughter moment in my earlier post but can’t resist sharing it again here as well. I think it’s the video I have re-watched most.

On a lighter note, Zoey hears her best friend and co-worker Max (Skylar Astin) pronounce his true feelings for her…

… and is touched by his intention to stand by her…

Her other co-worker, who becomes a friend as well, is Simon (John Clarence). I can so very well identify with the sentiment in this brief song, especially in a work setting. “My name is NO!” is something I think all of us have felt at some point, whether in work or in life outside of work. This cracks me up and I am keeping this in the back of my mind for future reference.

Ah, and there she is, Lauren Graham! She plays Zoey’s boss Joan in the first season who becomes empowered after she finds a way to deal with her husband.

I’m not too fond of love triangles, but there is one on this show as well, with both Simon and Max vying for Zoey in a musical battle.

I really like group numbers like this one where a lot of the main cast get to play a part.

There’s a racism storyline in the second season and before Simon holds a press conference to confront the world with the racism in his workplace, Zoey hears his heartfelt plea to please not be misunderstood.

This video of Simon expressing his frustration about the self-congratulatory white world around him not seeing the racism is good too.

This following video is so relatable. Sometimes, when everyone around you is cheerful, you can’t help it, you still remain sad…

Goes for this following video as well. Zoey and Max aren’t quite as into this dress up marathon as everyone else seems to be.

Mo (Alex Newell) is Zoey’s genderfluid neighbour and friend who falls in love but still has some things to work out with the man he loves…

Zoey’s brother Andrew (David Clarke) and his wife Emily (Alice Lee) have some beautiful moments together…

… while even the outward quite perfect Emily also falls apart on occasion. Alice Lee who plays her is really so heartbreaking here.

One of the saddest songs is this one from the final (Christmas special) episode. At this point in the story Max temporarily also has the power to hear the ‘heart songs’ that Zoey normally hears and is stunned by the outpouring of grief that isn’t as visible on the outside. I so very well understand how the family feels.

To end on a more positive note, everyone wanting to kiss each other during a party is kinda sweet.

Of course there is far more, like a long funeral scene set to American Pie (on YouTube it is split into three videos here, here and here), but these are the ones that most stuck with me – my own personal Zoey jukebox so to speak.

What is it with Persuasion?

I love Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Persuasion adaptations and as I have grown older, I think it has surpassed even my love of Pride and Prejudice. A year ago I read there were two Persuasion adaptations in the making and I was curious to see how those two would portray the story and also how much they would differ. I now understand that the version with Australian actress Sarah Snook is not happening anymore, which is a pity. She says in an interview with Vogue magazine from last fall: “Case in point: Jane Austen’s Persuasion with director Mahalia Belo, which was meant to be her next project. “The short story is that Netflix decided to greenlight their own, so Fox abandoned the one we were doing, which is disappointing because it was a great script and a director I really wanted to work with,” she says with a shrug. “But had I been doing that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come back to Australia so soon and see family and friends.”

Well, that Netflix version is now finally coming to the screen on July 15th and today a trailer was released:

The cast looks good!

I’m not a huge Dakota Johnson fan but she could be alright in this. I don’t know Cosmo Jarvis who plays Frederick Wentworth but he does look like he has some charisma. I wonder if his charisma can beat Henry Golding’s charisma. I really like Golding, I think he could have made an excellent Wentworth as well but he also looks like he can imbue Mr Elliot with just the right amount of charm and ambiguity. I also love the casting of Richard E. Grant and in the snippet we see of him he already looks perfect as the very vain father of Anne. Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russell looks interesting too. I didn’t know her name before I looked it up but I did know her face instantly from bits and pieces she’s done on TV where she somehow always manages to capture my attention.

For me an adaptation really doesn’t need to be the same as the book (I unexpectedly really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for instance) but it does need to capture it’s spirit somewhat. In this trailer, I do wonder about a friendship storyline that is hinted at – one of the big points in Persuasion is that Captain Wentworth is wounded and therefore outwardly very dismissive of Anne Elliot, so much so that there is no question of a renewed friendship until closer to the end of the story. Also, Captain Wentworth looks less stoic and unforgiving in this trailer so I do wonder how that will all work out. There also seems to be Anne breaking the fourth wall in this, which could be either very cool or very annoying.

No matter how good or how bad, I am very excited for this and I will definitely watch it as soon as I can. This adaptation has big shoes to fill, because I do love the Amanda Root / Ciaran Hinds version from 1995…

… but I don’t think it can be as bad as a Hallmark-ish version that was released two years ago (with the uninspired title of Modern Persuasion), which was quite terrible. I’m really curious on the take of this adaptation.

Besides the film/TV adaptations I also like reading Persuasion book adaptations and I just happened to finish reading one over the weekend. Even if the adaptations can’t always equal the original, the original storyline is quite strong and therefore the adaptations are really enjoyable for me too. So, I keep going back to them. Somehow I can’t seem to get enough of this story. I do keep wondering what attracts me to all these Persuasion re-tellings. Is it because the story is about a slightly more mature love? About second chances? Is it about learning from your mistakes or possible errors of judgment but also being grateful for them because they brought you to where you are today? It’s all of the above, I guess, and more. At the end of the book Anne Elliot says this:

“I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend whom you will love better than you do now. To me, she was in the place of a parent. Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that she did not err in her advice. It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable similarity, give such advice. But I mean, that I was right in submitting to her, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with;

I really like that. Even though the choice she made then caused her a lot of heartache, it still was the right choice for her at that time. It made her who she is but also drove Captain Wentworth to become as accomplished as he is. It also shows that timing is everything. There is a time to listen and take advice, there is a time to grow up and learn, there is a time when you can let experience lead you to another choice.

One of the great things about Jane Austen novels is how the main characters learn to know themselves better and what they want out of life and I think Anne may be Austen’s most self-aware character. She has loved and lost and has had time to absorb and analyse, thus maybe making her more wise and more empathetic than other Austen characters. She has had time to reflect and now knows who she is, she is level-headed and capable and she assuredly knows that if given a second chance she will grab it with both hands. I think it’s Captain Wentworth who is forced to make a bigger learning curve in this story, learning to deal with his petty anger, learning to understand himself, learning nuance (her youthful choice against him didn’t mean she didn’t love him) and finally accepting the fact that Anne, being steadfast and wise and empathetic, is indeed the best woman for him out there. I love Anne and that she stays true to herself and I love that she is able to inspire Wentworth to know himself better.

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last completed novel. It is possibly her most nuanced one as well (despite also having some biting characterizations) and I think I will forever love coming back to it. Ah, the stories Austen could have told had she only lived longer!

Colourised Colman

Yes, Ronald Colman is still on my mind and now and again I return to my little quest to find more colour images of him (like here and here) as there just aren’t enough colour images of the man out there. He was magnetic in black and white and I have this theory that he must have been even more mesmerizing in colour.

He only did two films in colour and had a very brief appearance in colour in the third. In 1944’s Kismet he was covered in lots of make-up and turbans so, in essence, hidden, until the end when he is dressed in black and his salt and pepper hair looks a little tousled. He looks devastatingly handsome in colour there. I wish he had looked like that throughout the whole movie (without the beard)…

In his little guest appearance in 1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days, his brown eyes shone nicely in the sun but he was a little hidden, dressed in a white uniform with pith helmet, and his appearance was ever so brief in a blink or you’ll miss it scene.

In his final movie from 1957, The Story of Mankind, he was also already older. The version I have is a little grainy and you rarely see him close up.

So, there are a few (moving) images in colour of an older Ronald but there are no (moving) images of him in colour as a younger man as far as I have been able to find. I can’t do anything about that but it occured to me that maybe I could do something about seeing more colour photographs of him.

I found this website where you can colourise black and white photos online and I’ve been throwing a whole bunch of images into the ‘colouriser’. Lots of the pictures don’t turn out quite right but some do come out with nice results and I want to share my favourites here. I don’t know Photoshop, so haven’t been able to enhance these myself, they come pretty much as is from the colouriser.

I’ll start with my absolute favourite colourised photo result, which really shows Ronnie’s warm brown eyes so beautifully! He had quite large eyes too, it must have been difficult to not lose yourself in them while meeting the man in person. Click on the image yourself to enlarge it and see what I mean. I think this is early 1940s Ronnie.

There is also a nice result from an end 1920s/early 1930s picture…

That photo must have been taken around the time he made Condemned (1929) with Ann Harding and Arrowsmith (1931) with Helen Hayes, from which I also now have two quite nice colourised pictures.

There are two pictures with female co-stars where especially the co-stars come out really nicely in colour. The eyes of Kay Francis in Raffles (1930) and Loretta Young in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) are quite stunning in these.

I also like how these images with Signe Hasso in A Double Life (1947), Ginger Rogers in Lucky Partners (1940), Jane Wyatt in Lost Horizon (1937) and Greer Garson in Random Harvest (1942) came out…

He looks his absolute sexiest with a bit of ruffled hair, as in A Tale of Two Cities (1935). The colouring quality isn’t great but the magnetism cannot be denied…

Also, another one from A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, Isabel Jewell is too yellow in the face but boy, Ronnie sure is in control of that white shirt open at the neck and sexy body language look. And two more ruffled hair pictures: one from The Talk of the Town (1942) and the other from Under Two Flags (1937).

I find that colourising from studio photographs works better than colourising from screenshots I took from the movies. Here are two more from A Tale of Two Cities, the second one also featuring actress Elizabeth Allen. Ronald Colman was very attached to his moustache and was hesitant shaving it off for Two Cities but I do think it’s one of his best looks.

This slightly ruffled Random Harvest look isn’t half bad either in colour (don’t mind his ear on the left of this picture, which is very off-colour). His brown eyes come out nicely in this one as well.

I am quite taken by this one of Ronald Colman in A Double Life – I love him with glasses!

I also really like two colourized shots from the mid 1920s with his frequent co-star Vilma Banky. The first one is from their final silent movie together, The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) and I suspect the second one was taken on that set as well.

There’s a nice one from the end 1940s with his wife Benita Hume, when they did radio together (even though the blue hand that looks like it could fall off his arm any minute)…

I also really like these two behind the scenes shots, from A Tale of Two Cities and Random Harvest. I presume he’s not really wearing one brown and one blue sock in Random Harvest, it’s probably a colouring mistake, but I do like to imagine that he wore mismatched socks.

And I really love these candid ones from Ronnie in his garden, from the beginning 1930s and beginning 1940s, I believe. He sure looked good in blue.

Judging from these pictures alone it must have been quite something meeting him in real life full colour. In a 1926 Photoplay interview (during the silent film era when he had only been famous for two years) this is confirmed:

“He gives you the feeling that, for all his reserve, you are one of the people capable of getting under it. He conveys that impression at the very moment of meeting. It’s a beautiful trick. When you are introduced his first glance meets yours quite politely, but casually. An instant later his eyes flash interest, a deep interest in you whom he has just seen that moment. It’s enough to make any woman glow like a red-hot stove. Of course it may be due to his being a marvellous actor. Every woman in his life must have felt that she, out of all the world, was closest to him. And afterward she must have known that she didn’t know him at all. He makes you feel that he could be the most charming person in the world, the most wonderful companion, the most ardent lover. These things are in the depths of his cynical and amused eyes, in the well-bred tones of his fine voice, in his flattering attention to your silliest words.” (Source)

I wish I could have caught a glimpse like that of the real Ronald Colman in colour for myself. Alas, that does not seem to be in the cards as Ronald was very publicity shy, he rarely gave interviews and there seem to be no video interviews (more than snippets in news reels) either. There is more to be found of publicity shy actors nowadays (*cough* Richard Armitage) than of publicity shy actors from the 1920s – 1940s…

Two favourites in one post

It’s the weekend! And I saw this lovely picture come across my Instagram feed this afternoon after I finished working…

Source

Apparently Damage has wrapped filming in Marseille and this is Richard with his co-star Charlie Murphy (an actress I don’t know yet but seems to also have been on Peaky Blinders). I have a feeling Richard is still wearing filming make-up in this picture but it’s such a sweet picture nonetheless! In his Instagram post Richard says he is ‘transformed’. I’d love to know in what way.

It reminds me of another sweet picture I came across earlier this week that I wanted to share of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen: Mr Darcy 1995 (my absolute fave Darcy ever!) and Mr Darcy 2005…

They starred in their first movie togther and this was them at a premiere…

They seem to like each other apart from that Darcy connection and apparently only briefly exchanged Darcy experiences. They filmed a movie called Operation Mincemeat together about a British deception operation to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, using the body of a dead man, planting fake documents on him for the Germans to find. It’s based on a true story. I went to see the film with my friend last Tuesday (it was a pre-premiere showing). The cinema had a huge display to advertise the film…

It’s not Colin’s masterpiece and I could’ve done without that love triangle part of the story but it was a fun film to watch nonetheless. Ian Fleming, writer of James Bond, was part of the team who executed the deception plan and it was also very amusing finding out where M and Q in the James Bond movies seemed to have gained their names from. Colin and Matthew really play well off each other…

It’s not a film you really need to watch but it really was very nice to have seen it, especially with the added context of that Darcy connection. Although, I admit to not thinking much about either Darcy while I watched this, which is a good thing.

I love seeing my favourite actors making good connections with those they work with and showing it with a hug or a touch. It always makes me feel warm and happy inside.