As many of you know, Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is my favorite book in the world. I’ve read it more times than I can remember. The 1995 adaptation does have some flaws, but it is still almost perfect. But, when Netflix announced it was making an adaptation of Persuasion, part of me was excited and part of me was filled with dread. The dread intensified when I heard that it was a period piece starring Dakota Johnson.

I dumped Netflix a while back, and the trailer for this offering left me cold. Check it out here:

and let me know what you think.

The reviews were almost universally terrible so, when a good friend who does still have Netflix invited a couple of fellow Janeites over to watch it last Saturday, I was leery but I went. Friends, it was even worse than we thought. I’ve already shared my thoughts with other Janeites in private, but I thought I’d share them with the fine folks here at WordPress:

We hated the inane, teenage dialogue (5s and 10s? exes?). We hated the personality transplant given to Anne. Austen’s Anne (and Nick Dear/Amanda Root’s Anne) is elegant and refined.  Dakota Johnson’s Anne, however, appears to drop an F-bomb just after she sees Frederick for the first time (we rewound it – the part when she’s told about the jam mustache – to confirm).  We were appalled when she drunkenly yells at Frederick through the open window the night before.  We hated that Anne is a whiny lush. We hated that Lady Russell takes discreet sex tours. We hated that Elizabeth told Anne that she (Elizabeth) needed Anne nearby so that Mr. Elliot could see how much prettier she (Elizabeth) is.  We hated that Mr. Elliot told Anne of his plans right off the bat.  We REALLY hated the Mr. Elliot/Mrs. Clay denouement. As in jaws dropping.  We hated the way Harville knew all about Anne.  We hated how Louisa behaved.  We hated that Mary appears to see a shrink and spouts nonsense about loving herself before she can love anyone else. And what they did to The Letter is inexcusable. 

In short, we found zero positives, except for the cinematography. It was, admittedly, beautiful to look at. But I’m a substance-over-appearance kind of girl so the lovely cinematography didn’t cut it with me.

I started pacing pretty early on. I just couldn’t take it.  I found it to be almost physically painful.  There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. 

1995 does have its flaws, but it’s still as close to perfection as possible IMNSHO (as one friend put it, “Ciaran Hinds set a bar that could be seen from space” – and I would submit that Amanda Root did, too). To me, the very best example of why this version is so bad is the scene where Anne and Frederick meet for the first time. In this version, Anne is acting like an idiot.  She babbles incoherently when she sees him. In 1995, all we get is the 2 of them looking at each other and then the camera cuts to Anne’s hand holding onto the chair as for dear life.  Same scene, yet the differences are immeasurable.

All this awfulness made me think about the whole “accessibility” issue.  I find it rather condescending to make a period piece that uses modern language and sensibilities to “make it accessible” for the audience. Just make a new Clueless. That was brilliant. As I’ve said, I got people to read Emma because of it. Same with Bridget Jones’s Diary/P&P.

In addition, an LA Times review I read said that this group is considering bringing P&P and S&S to the unwashed masses also.  Dear God, make this stop!!!!!!

I have to wonder how many of the hits that Netflix is getting come from hate-watchers like my friends and me. Most of the reviews I’ve seen on YouTube have been just as scathing as the newspaper/e-zine reviews. This movie is just bad. Truly bad. It’s hard to believe that something could be even worse than MP99, but this managed what I’d previously thought was impossible. I guess that’s an accomplishment?