Movie Review - Persuasion (2007)

NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.
Adrian Shergold
Clerkenwell Films

Some films manage to fit in all the important parts of the original story, and some don’t. And there are some that perhaps seem to fit everything in, but it only looks that way because we were already introduced to the characters and plotline in the other movie version, or in the book. Well, hurrah for the films that make sense to everybody, and shame on the ones that make sense to nobody. The ones that are kind of in-between—well, hurrah for the people that like them, and sympathy for those who don’t.

It’s a risky thing to offer, shall we say, less enthusiastic opinions about Jane Austen, or her books, or her movies; personal taste accounts for so much when it comes to these things; but if it were just up to me, I would say that Persuasion of 2007 is just a bit lacking in some places. The film begins with two minutes of Anne Elliot walking through the house overseeing the packing of trunks, the covering of the furniture, etc., and while by the end of the two minutes we’ve thoroughly established that our protagonist is forced to move away from her family estate (and learned the names of the people involved in the making of the film), one can’t help wondering if two minutes wasn’t long enough for us to have established a good deal more than that—at least it seems that way in hindsight. When the viewers who have not read the book or seen the other film version have to ask fairly regularly who that character is, or what just happened, you begin to think that perhaps there may have been too much time spent showing us the Elliot family’s packing day, or the English landscape, or even characters’ facial expressions, at the expense of good, solid character and plot development.

Sexual Content:
Indeed, if I were to venture an opinion, I would suggest that timing was the weakest aspect of the film. A three-second kiss is quite typical of Jane Austen films, but twenty-five seconds of being on the very verge of kissing really is awkwardly disproportionate, and it’s about five times as long as usual to meditate on the implications of unmarried actors kissing for money. The mention of a gentleman’s offer to establish a young woman as his mistress is supposed to be part of a shocking revelation about the man’s true character, but in a rushed ending it just feels like too much information (especially since it is absent from the original story). There’s a key subplot which involves a romantic relationship that nearly wrecks the main characters’ happiness, but it is almost completely undeveloped save for a couple of occasions when the girl jumps into the fellow’s arms; while on the other hand, our protagonist has thirty seconds of screen time with nothing on but her undergarments, and another minute and a half (most of which was spent in the company of gentlemen) with only the addition of an unfastened robe—all for a subplot that affected the story for maybe three minutes.

Violent and Intense Content:
That subplot also involved the re-locating of a young child’s dislocated collarbone, for those of you who need to know about these things.

And for those of us who need to know about these things, Charles says, “D--- it” immediately after the two Misses Musgroves state that everyone has been invited to Kellynch Hall, “Even you, Anne.” The Lord’s name is taken in vain when the scene changes immediately after Anne is introduced to Captain Harville, and debatably taken in vain after Captain Harville tells Captain Wentworth that the Musgroves “talk of little else.” “Good heavens” is said half a dozen times.

Aside from a brief remark about an older woman’s being Anne’s godmother, and Christian terminology being used by a deceptive character (and almost no one else), the questionable worldview elements in Persuasion are only those which may be found in any other Jane Austen story: the parent who is so obnoxious, the siblings who are so unsympathetic; opposed attachments and love triangles; all those things that show up in Jane Austen’s England and everywhere else, and that really shouldn’t be given full rein over a young woman’s impressionable sensibilities.

I’m not especially enthusiastic about this film, but neither am I dead set against it. The three things that hindered my enjoyment of Persuasion were the lack of character and plot development, the extra time spent on unimportant scenes, and the two and a half minutes the protagonist spends running through Bath in pursuit of her beloved. Hurrah for people who aren’t bothered by any of those things; I think they will be able to enjoy this version of the story. For those who are not already familiar with the story, who are purists when it comes to Austen films, or who are under the age of twelve, I think I would suggest the other version instead.

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