Netflix’s Persuasion Disaster Ignored The Easiest Way To Make It Work – NBCNEWS

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Warning! Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s Persuasion!

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Few films have managed such devastating reviews as Netflix’s recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Released July 15th, critics have panned the film as mediocre at best and an outright disaster at worst while Austen devotees claim the film butchers the classic novelist’s original vision. However, the film may have seen far greater success given one small (but important) change.

Netflix’s Persuasion begins seven years after Anne Elliot (played by Spider-Man’s upcoming Madam Web, Dakota Johnson) has been persuaded to break off her engagement to the dashing naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. The story revolves around Wentworth’s return (now a decorated officer) and the subtle, tortured, and sometimes humorous dance the pair takes to reunite. Yet, while the Netflix adaptation remains true to much of Austen’s original work, the film is a mess of slightly modernized touches.


Related: Why Netflix’s Persuasion Broke The Top 10 Despite Negative Reviews

Netflix’s Persuasion’s negative reviews seem largely pointed at the modernization of Austen’s Elliot into Dakota Johnson’s Flea bag-esque, fourth-wall-breaking heroine and the movie’s updated dialogue. Yet other contemporary Austen interpretations like 1995’s Clueless and 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary prove that these are not damning issues in their own right. The true flaw in Netflix’s Persuasion is not that the film modernized, but that it did not modernize enough.

Dakota Johnson’s Anne Elliot Wasn’t Persuasion’s Problem

Many have been quick to point to Johnson’s updated Elliot as the problem with Netflix’s Persuasion. As Persuasion was Austen’s last novel, Anne Elliot, at 27 years old, was more mature and restrained than Austen’s earlier 20-year-old heroines seen in Emma (the source material for Clueless), Sense and Sensibilityand Pride and Prejudice (the inspiration for Bridget Jones’s Diary). Yet, the Netflix adaptation is not off-base in its reimagined heroine. The average age for women to marry in the Regency Era was 20 years old and that expectation would have relegated Elliot to a perception of being an old maid, but today, it is 33. Considering this, it is completely viable that a modern-day Anne Elliot would have a far different outlook in Netflix’s Persuasion than she did in the novel, allowing for an interpretation that has drawn comparisons to Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s Flea bag.

Likewise, Netflix’s Persuasion’s modern dialogue does not fail in and of itself, with itsexes” and “tense.” One only needs to look at other modernizations like Clueless or Bridget Jones’s Diary for successful examples of severely anti-Austen dialogue like Cher’s now iconic “if if!” pious Clueless and the estimated 217 times the word “f*ck” is used in Bridget Jones’s Diary. But, like its updated heroine, Netflix’s slang is harshly out of place while stuck in the Regency Era.

Upon inspection, it is not that Netflix’s Persuasion goes too far—thus abandoning Austen’s true intent—it is that the adaptation does not go nearly far enough. If films like Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary have taught us anything, it is that a modern heroine with spicy wit does not an Austen reimagining break. Yet Netflix’s Persuasion fails to fully embrace its vision by keeping it locked in the Regency era of Bridgertonthus leaving Dakota Johnson’s brilliantly-executed, modern Anne Elliot hanging out to dry.

Next: Bridgerton’s Ton True Story, Translation & Meaning Explained

Persuasion is available on Netflix


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