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Not persuaded that this is as good as the BBC's version
on 7 April 2007
Firstly let me say that it has just occurred to me to wonder whether I'm biased against this version of Persuasion in favour of the 1995 Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version simply because I saw that one first and have loved it ever since; similarly I much prefer the BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice to the more recent film, so maybe that which we see first, we love best? That aside, I tried to watch this production of Persuasion with an open mind, particularly looking forward to Rupert Penry-Jones' portrayal of the very attractive Captain Wentworth.
In that respect, I was not disappointed; you could not hope for a more handsome leading man; what a beauty. I could even forgive Anne Elliot's uncharacteristic chase scene as she ran full pelt around Bath looking for Captain Wentworth; if my lost love looked like Rupert Penry-Jones I think I'd be persuaded to leg it around Bath in hot pursuit. But even so, it is uncharacteristic of Anne's restrained and resigned character which was portrayed so much more accurately by Amanda Root in the 1995 BBC version. A previous reviewer said that they felt Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds too old but let's not forget that in Jane Austen's time 27 was almost heading towards middle age, and Anne would have been considered very much "on the shelf" by that age.
I thought that the casting of Sally Hawkins was very good but in a way there was not enough contrast between the pale, plain Anne at the beginning of the book and the radiant blooming Anne at the end; she was just reasonably pretty throughout.
The ITV have also fallen for the old chestnut of dumbing down the script when there is really no need and from that perspective the BBC have always been streets ahead in their scriptwriting skills. The end result is that this version of Persuasion is just not quite faithful enough to the spirit of the book and has just too many deviations and liberties for my liking.
All in all, a very ornamental version but the BBC 1995 version is far superior in the writing, casting - especially of the peripheral characters, and sticks much more faithfully to the book, so if you only buy one version, buy the BBC version - but if you are happy with the shortcomings of this production and would like to see Rupert Penry-Jones looking gorgeous (and who wouldn't?), then this story of love lost and found with suitably Austen-esque misunderstandings along the way will appeal.