on 12 November 2009
It is true that this adaptation of Jane Austen's amazing novel is not true to the written word but that does not take away any of the enjoyment it brings every single time you watch it.
This, more than any other recent short adaptation, is delivered with the sensitivity and emotion so deserved of the exceptional characters and novel and it remains true and respectful to the spirit and storyline.
I absolutely love it, and Sally Hawkin's portrayal of the beloved silently suffering Anne Elliot is incredibly engaging, so much so that you want to comfort her and sweep her away from all her selfish relations. Wentworth is just as he should be and is also brilliantly characterised and performed. There is an intoxicating electricity between the two.
If you are an Austen purist then perhaps this will not be your favourite, but if you love beautifully shot, well acted dramas with engaging and believable characters that you care for and bond with (just as you do with Austen's own heroes and heroines) then this is well worth the money. You will watch it again and again and get just as much enjoyment from it as the first time you pressed 'play'!
on 4 December 2010
During the whole of this so-so adaptation, we spent our time saying "Close your mouth!". The drippy heroine goes around with her mouth half-open at all times, except when showing a formidable row of teeth. In fact most of the characters look just like rather uninteresting horses - presumably due to the camera angle.
For a comedy of manners there are far too many close-ups; the whole point of Austen is the interplay between people.
The Amanda Root version was so much better - because Ann put a brave face on things - whereas this Ann looks totaly browbeaten and dreary, with absolutely no backbone. She had caved in to family pressure when young, but that does not mean she was completely amorphous.
The ancillary characters were only sketched very roughly - also all the women looked very similar, so hard to follow the plot if you didn't know the story.
Curiously enough, it is only a few minutes shorter than the Root version, but much less detail is given about the events - probably because so much time is wasted on having Ann write in her diary, read the entries out loud and then look morose!
on 2 April 2007
This film had a lot to live up to - the BBC having made a version of Persuasion in the late 90s which was extremely well received. Persuasion is also Jane Austen's most grown up book and is therefore, I think, more difficult to pitch.
I was very worried before watching it. ITV had made a season of three Austen adaptations and I wasn't overly impressed with the first two. Mansfield Park had some great actors in it but a dreadful interpretation of the text and a lack of chemistry made it flat and disappointing when compared to the 1999 film version starring Frances O'Connor. Northanger Abbey had been better (the two leads Felicity Jones and JJ Feild were great) but once again the adaptation let it down somewhat.
I was, however, immensely relieved and impressed by Persuasion. The makers of this adaptation have done a great job of getting Austen's last novel on to the screen. I would even go so far to say it is better than the BBC version. Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot was sublime (and I really liked the occasional looks she shared with the camera - it felt like something Austen would have done) and Rupert Penry-Jones was magnificent as Wentworth. In fact I think he was the reason I liked it better than the BBC version - Ciaran Hinds is a great actor but he never really rang true as Wentworth for me while Penry-Jones gave a performance that bordered on Colin Firth/Darcy smoldering.
What I really liked about the adaptation was it gentleness though. No tricks or attempts to 'sex up' the text. Just a loving adaptation of my favourite Austen book.
on 8 June 2008
Ugh. I'm writing this review as I watch the film, to help me get through it. The performances are almost universally bad, with the exception of Rupert Penry-Jones, who is a brooding and understated Captain Wentworth, one of the few actors in this production to grasp the subtlety and nuance of Jane Austen's writing and characterisation. I wanted to like Sally Hawkins, but her Anne Elliot is melancholy and monotonous. She seems to be constantly flustered and miserable, gasping, sobbing, trembling and feeling faint. A far cry from Austen's capable heroine, astute, engaging and always in command of her senses; such a sharp contrast too with Amanda Root's vivacious and gregarious Anne Elliot, who was likable and warm, with feeling eyes and a sharp mind. Hawkin's Anne Elliot is quiet, subdued, depressed and depressing. They've made her plain to look at without the warmth of character that illuminated Amanda Root's face in the 1995 production.
As for the others, Anthony Head is a severe and stiff Mr Elliot, delivering lines as though he's never been asked to do so before, and without the essence of caricature that lightens his character in the book. Amanda Hale's bumbling and exaggerated Mary Musgrove is embarrassing. She's plainly trying to steal every scene she's in by overplaying her character. Consequently her lines are delivered clumsily and unnaturally, and she sounds silly rather than amusing. Again, Sophie Thompson's portrayal in the 1995 version is superior. Alice Krige is a beautiful and poised Lady Russell, but fails to represent the authority and arch-snobbery that she ought, especially when whimpering a tearful almost-apology at the beginning of the film for advising Anne against marrying Captain Wentworth - such a breach of the original storyline, so out of line with her character in the book, and so darn unlikely. Lady Russell above all else has a strong sense of propriety that governs her every action. She doesn't exert her formidable powers of persuasion over an impressionable girl and then weep with her over it later.
The performances overall are amateurish and the dialogue is stilted. Anne Elliot should be bright, witty, sharp, intellectual, conversational, energetic, and ultimately supremely attractive to the confident and like-minded Captain Wentworth, and in fact loved by all characters of worth and sense in the book: Bennick, the Musgroves, the Crofts, etc. Her warm and steady character is meant to recommend her to everyone regardless of class. Hawkins' Anne Elliot drifts through the story whimpering and sighing, aloof from everyone and unengaged with her surroundings. She doesn't like anyone and no one likes her. She subsists on memories and misery.
Wentworth and Anne need to be equals in intellect and temperament in order for a love story to be plausible and interesting to watch. I just don't buy it. The principal actors need to be equals too, and Rupert-Penry Jones' sensitive portrayal of Captain Wentworth might have been brilliant had the casting directors done their work properly and ensured professional performances across the board. Is there a shortage of great British actors, or are they all signing up for period dramas at the BBC, where they do things right? I've only mentioned the worst of the performances - most of them, such as the Miss Musgroves and the Crofts, are just unremarkable and unlikeable. It's hard to invest any interest in them.
There were a number of moments of grating awkwardness that stand out from the rest. Firstly, the tearful scene I alluded too between Lady Russell and Anne Elliot. Secondly, the dancing at the Musgroves. Anne's piano playing was really poor (for which there is no excuse - she's an excellent pianist in the book), and the dancing itself looked trite and silly. I just didn't know where to look. Thirdly, when Captain Wentworth helps Anne into the Croft's carriage. Rather than gallantly handing her in, he actually lifts her up and seats her on the back of the buggy, at which she gasps and simpers. The camera at this point is clearly attached to the back of the buggy and focussed on Anne, so the whole scene bounces around clumsily. It was just an awful embarrassing moment, instead of a fluent, romantic one. Finally, the last 5 minutes of the film, into which about a third of the book is compressed, while Anne runs frantically around Bath like a chicken with her head cut off meeting various acquaintances who fill her in on some important plot points and tie up a few loose ends. Still running, she reads a letter, encounters the Crofts, who point her in the direction of Captain Wentworth, pursues him and finds him with Charles Musgrove, and breathlessly accepts Wentworth's proposal of marriage (contained in the letter). At this point she needs a shower and a strong drink, but she manages to stutter out a breathy "I would be delighted...that is to say I...I am determined...etc., etc., etc.", then engages in the most protracted, toothy and clumsy screen kiss I've ever seen in my life. I can't decide whether she thinks she's about to eat an apple, or if she's just low on blood sugar, but either way she hovers for what seems like an eternity showing her teeth and gulping and gasping and making weird chewing motions before the actual kiss, while poor Captain Wentworth stands with his head bent down just waiting, waiting, waiting. Don't even get me started on the "wedding present" and the ensuing waltz on the lawn of Kellynch Hall.
The producers and writers have messed with the book beyond all reason, of course. At times the trajectory of events is barely recognisable, and the dialogue has been butchered and is delivered without passion and feeling. The cinematography is insipid and too grittily realistic, the landscapes are dreary and mostly drenched in rain, the camera jumps and jogs all over the place. Too many close-ups of faces that aren't very interesting to look at, too much bolting dizzily through dull, dark houses and the drizzly streets of Bath.
I could have forgiven a lot if not for the dismal performance of Sally Hawkins. I blame costumes partly (always dressed in garish rust and purple), hair and makeup (uber-pale with black hair dragged into a painfully tight black bun, totally unflattering) and a poorly-written screenplay. But I can't forgive her for delivering all her lines in a hesitant whisper, for gasping and having palpitations all the time, and for never smiling or expressing a glimmer of vivacity.
I can only recommend the Ciaran Hinds/Amanda Root version of this film, which is infinitely better. Or just read the book. When the announcer said at the end of the film "You can pre-order your copy of Persuasion at your local store..." I snickered. Not likely.
on 2 April 2007
Jane Austen would turn in her grave if she could see this latest dumbed down and charmless production of Persuasion. In short, it is Barbara Cartland meets Jane Austen - very pretty costumes and locations, but puff and a distinct lack of substance. Despite some pretty good performances by Sally Hawkins, Rupert Penry-Jones, Stella Gonet and Nicholas Farrell the script was distinctly pedestrian, and the director had absolutely no idea about how a young lady of Anne Elliot's class would behave - where was all the wit and subtlety that made Jane Austen. It certainly wasn't here, don't waste your money stick to the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root production.
on 4 October 2015
As many others reviewers of this production of Persuasion have stated, the director's apparent misinterpretation and subsequent direction of the character of Anne Elliot is bewildering. In the book, Anne Elliot is a bright, calm woman with a sensible, practical nature, other than an unfortunate tendency when young to be influenced by her family and godmother.
In this production, we see none of the literary Anne, apart from when someone is injured when she immediately transforms into a Florence Nightingale-esque nurse of strength and fortitude. Unfortunately this only happens twice and for about 30 seconds in total. Otherwise Sally Hawkins alternately gulps, gasps, sobs, hiccups and whispers her way through the entire production. A more insipid character I can't imagine . What the director and actress were thinking they were doing with this character I can't understand but it certainly wasn't following the character of the book. This is a crying shame as I actually think Sally Hawkins is rather a good actress and could have brought a fresh, quite bright and clever layer to the character of Anne had she been directed to.
The production is intended to be more "realistic", with handheld cameras and the like. It works, to an extent - but sadly not well enough. Often I found myself thinking "Yes I understand Anne is supposed to be upset right about now but I don't need to see tear tracks and a bright red watery nose in order to grasp it". The scenery is good, the production of the sets excellent, the use of Lyme Regis very well done - it looked fantastically stormy - and Bath was cleverly filmed to show it in all its Georgian glory, though they play havoc with some of the locations (the Pump Room/Baths and Royal Crescent are a good 20 minute walk away from one another, not a 10 second sprint as suggested at the end of the film). The costumes were sumptuous - but again they dressed Anne in drab, dull fabrics and colours which I'm sure were intended to scream "wallflower" but ended up looking dreary and boring - very much like the interpretation of the production's lead character.
Rupert Penry-Jones is criminally underused I think. He is the purveyor of a lot of brooding looks and stormy frowns which I believe made the character seem somewhat one-dimensional. He really does look the part in long coats, knee-high boots and snowy white cravats - the epitomisation of a Georgette Heyer hero - but I don't believe they exercised his acting chops nearly well enough.
What on earth happened in the last 20 minutes?! Not only does the story suddenly accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat, rushing to the "grand finale" after much tedious shuffling through Anne's tears and runny red nose for the previous hour and ten minutes, but all sense of propriety and decorum is thrown to the four winds as Anne sprints through Bath without her head covered in pursuit of a man. It is an act one might expect from juvenile, flighty, foolish Lydia Bennett at a push, but not from 28 year old, calm, collected, intelligent Anne Elliot.
To add insult to injury, Sally Hawkins/ Anne then stands for a good five minutes gawping at Capt Wentworth like a guppy fish. I found myself rolling my eyes and shouting at the screen "Oh for god's sake say something woman" much to my boyfriend's amusement. Then to add further insult to injury she snogs him in the middle of the Royal Crescent in the centre of Bath, but only after much gulping and gasping of course. This is the one instance where Rupert Penry-Jones' acting skills came to the fore - he must have had to exercise severe restraint to stop himself from bursting out laughing at the sappy, doe-eyed, watery mess he was face to face with.
This had the potential to be an excellent production - a heavyweight cast, stacks of cash thrown at it by ITV and the chance to ride the wave of adoration for productions such as the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. It falls flat on it's face due to some poor character interpretation and direction.
on 30 July 2014
I will hold my hands up and admit the Ciaran Hinds/Amanda Root version is one of my all time favourites, it is simply perfect, so this one was always going to struggle. I went in with an open mind as Sally Hawkins is always excellent and Rupert Penry Jones is simply gorgeous and a good actor to boot. Like others my main problem is with the fiddling with the text/layout of a few key scenes, which stripped away some of the tension. And I agree also that Anne's sister played by Julia Davis was a woeful miscast. Anthony Head is quite enjoyable and I enjoyed his more subtle take on the pompous Baronet, still not a patch on Colin Redgrave though. It never really felt as though Captain Wentworth was interested in the Musgroves, the director was far too interested in having him look swoonily at Anne. That said I can't gripe too much, Rupert Penry Jones is just a lovely speciman of man and I will probably watch this again just for him! His portrayal of Wentworth is the most romantic I have seen and it's certainly not a burden to watch him.I would say that the pairing of he and Hawkins as Anne doesn't feel as convincing as it could, though Hawkins is fine as Anne and I enjoyed her slightly less sombre take on the character. The less formal filming style did change it up a bit (the shaky cam following Anne running around Bath like a madwoman), but I'm not convinced it added anything. I thnk they were trying to inject a tension that they ruined by not allowing the plot points to stand out to their best ability. Which ended up with it feeling like an enjoyable Sunday drama, but never really reaching the heights of Austen at her best. It was sweetly enjoyable though and I would probably watch it again.
on 24 May 2014
3.5 stars. What can I say? Other reviewers are all praising the 90s version and declaring it more accurate, but it really wasn't. Ciaran Hinds was too old and he looked it. He certainly didnt look 31, more like 45. I looked it up he was 42. We mustn't get distracted by Sir Walter saying sailors looked old and weather beaten, no one in the book ever describes Wentworth that way. Hinds is ruggedly attractive, but no pair of 'fresh from the school room' misses would fuss over him and call him handsome, he looks old enough to be the Miss Musgroves father. He wears his uniform almost all the time as do his fellow Captains, this was against Naval regulations and a mistake this adaption does not make.
Rupert Penry Jones however looks like a man two teenage girls would declare was "much handsomer .....than any individual among their male acquaintance.."
Captain Benwick and Harvill are just spot on, Harvill comes across as a true friend, the scene where he counsels Wentworth to make himself scarce is brilliantly done, but the portly Benwick of the 90s version fails to convince me he could win the some what shallow Louisa's affection.
I feel that Elizabeth Elliot is poorly cast, the actress was suitably sour, but too old, she was about 11 years older than the character when she played the role and sadly it showed. Anne is perhaps not miscast as I once thought, but she often doesn't look like a faded, delicate beauty. She looks plain a lot of the time, even when she is supposed to have blossomed and I now feel on reflection that this is not the actresses fault,I've recently seen her in other things and she can look very pretty, but rarely does in this film due to uncomplimentary lighting, clothes, makeup and hair styles, in fact on occasion the makeup is really bad, in particular there are signs of badly applied blusher. I don't object to plain looking female leads, but with a bit more effort on the part of the film crew this actresses excellent performance could have been supported by the wardrobe, makeup and hairstylists to portray her transformation from a faded beauty to a renewed, reinvigorated one.
In fact in this film Anne's hair styles are positively dreadful! I read somewhere that Elizabeth's hairstyles where made deliberately unattractive and ridiculous, sadly the stylists appear to have got confused and made Anne's less ridiculous, but equally ugly.
I think the 80s version of P&P was the definitive and truly did the book justice, neither this adaption of Persuasion or the 90s one have really done the book true justice. The 90s adaption failed in its casting and silly over use of uniforms and the disappointing ending; where Anne and Frederick stand far apart on the ship's deck as if strangers.
This adaption fails in the casting of the eldest Elliot sister, the silly 'make her wait for it' kiss, the waltzing end,(waltzing did exist in the Regency period from around 1812, but it was much more complex) and the ridiculous 'run Lola run' sequence.
However, to add to the pluses Wentworth's lifting Anne on to the carriage and her gasp in response is priceless. Anne setting the collar bone is a nice touch, neatly demonstrating how her family's dismissing her abilities is so wrong and the hint Charles Musgrove still has a tendre for Anne comes across neatly in the log sitting incident. Wentworth's brief agony as he cannot resist watching when he walks into an otherwise empty room, where Anne is playing the piano, is poignant and touching. All the above are wonderful elements woven into this production. Mary and Charles are well cast and so is Mr Musgrove although Mrs Musgrove is too slim. I think also the Crofts are well played, but I imagined them both a little younger, her early 40s and the Admiral late 40s tops, afterall Mrs Croft is the sister of a man in his early 30s. I think that the William Elliot in this version looks like he might be ruthless, in the 90s version the actor looked too young for the role and lacked the necessary polish of a man of the world.
By all means make up your own mind, but I feel that as yet Persuasion and Mansfield Park have yet to be done full justice on screen.
on 3 April 2013
I first read Persuasion 23 yrs ago when I was a 17yr old A-level student, young and unjaded by the disappointments of mundane heterosexuality. Having recently reread the novel, I decided that I'd like to see how Jane Austen's great work has been represented visually. I read, with interest, reviews of various productions on Amazon. Somewhat apprehensive about deviations from the novel and Sally Hawkins' persistently open mouth, I decided that I simply couldn't reconcile Ciaran Hinds with the image of Wentworth formed in my youth and, so, opted for the 2007 version.
I tend to be a stickler for the superiority of the written over the visual but, in this case, poetic licence can be forgiven in view of excellent casting and characterisation. Antony Head creates a fantastically vain Sir Walter, while Elizabeth and Mary are delightful 'ugly sisters'. As for Sally Hawkins, hell, playing opposite RPJ as Wentworth, I'm sure I'd be dragging my bottom jaw along behind me. She captures with subtlety the continuum of Anne's initial delicacy and fragility and her exquisite pain in being confronted with Wentworth, through to her the strength emerging from her second bloom of youth and beauty. My only frown came from her transition into consultant orthopod in resetting young Charles' dislocated shoulder - as if! and the rather ungainly and inappropriate sprint through the streets of Bath in pursuit of Wentworth. I'm sorry, it simply would NOT happen.
As to RPJ, he is every bit the slighted romantic hero I first imagined 23 years ago: "I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant." No other man ever stood a chance of following in his footsteps. Swoon...
on 27 September 2012
So much about this version of Persuasion is disappointing. Of course, it does have to stand against the superb earlier version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.
The script, by moving dialogue about in the story or to different characters, failed to catch some of the more important nuances and developments. Particularly wrong was losing the reason as to why Captain Wentworth wrote his letter and how it was passed to Anne. The revelation of the Captain's feelings for Anne and hers for him is a complete farce. No wonder Anne rushing about Bath has been put to both the themes from Chariots of Fire and The Benny Hill Show.
The direction also bothers me. As an historian myself with a particular interest in the late Georgian/Regency period, certain behaviours (beyond racing about Bath after a man) made me very uncomfortable. For instance, Anne meeting Mr. Musgrove while wearing an open robe over her underwear. Even if she was worried about her nephew, she would have fastened her robe. Or better still, the director could have had her fully dressed as was Amanda Root in the first version.
However, my biggest complaint is Sally Hawkins as Anne Eliot. I just didn't believe in her as the character. Of course, much of that may perhaps be the fault of the director. But above all, I keep wanting to shout at the television 'Please close your mouth.' So much of the film, Anne is walking around with her mouth half open looking like she has a blocked nose or is rather stupid. There is none of the gentle doe-eyed charm of Amanda Root.
I can say that the costumes and settings are lovely, overall the acting is good (including Sally Hawkins when her mouth is shut), but the main reason I would watch this again is to see Rupert Penry-Jones glowering and otherwise looking dashing as Captain Wentworth.