Let’s talk Jane Austen.
It’s always tricky adapting her work, as each reader has a specific feeling or aesthetic they have already set in their mind. It’s the reason why, nearly 20 years after the latest “straight up” Pride & Prejudice adaptation, people still argue whether or not it’s better than the 1994 Colin Firth version. (for the record: Keira Knightly FTW)
I can see why people immediately had problems with a so-called “modern” adaptation of Persuasion, but honestly I was looking forward to it. Clueless remains one of the best Austen adaptations to exist and it’s plenty modern, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent that this could be done.
The problem is Dakota Johnson. I’m sorry, but there’s really no other way to state it.
Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with Dakota. I think she’s a perfectly fine actress and I have enjoyed her in things (not 50 Shades). But does she WOW me? Do I want to see a movie that 100% hinges on her likability?
Because here’s the thing: Persuasion is all about Anne Elliot. And while Dakota is charming enough to keep me engaged throughout the movie, she isn’t charming enough to pull off the awkwardness of 4th wall breaks and modern slang thrown into an otherwise straight up period piece.
It’s just an odd movie. I appreciate what they were trying to do, but both the execution and the writing itself is just…fine. Good enough to watch, not good enough to watch a second time. A study in mediocrity.
Even that would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that this movie meant to take big swings! It wanted to do something daring, but somehow didn’t go all in on it. It Dakota Johnson-ed it: entertaining, but not revolutionary.
Ultimately, I hope the outright scorn and mocking this movie has received across the board will motivate some intrepid Austen fan out there to make an actual adaptation of Persuasion we can all enjoy. And whether it’s a faithful interpretation or something more modern, I can’t help but think it has to be better than this.