Netflix's lavish remake of Jane Austen's classic novel Persuasion has received critical acclaim.
The film stars Dakota Johnson, Snake Eyes' Henry Golding and Richard E. Grant, and British director Carrie Cracknell takes her first steps out of theater and into film behind the camera.
The story follows Anne Elliot (played by Johnson), the neglected middle daughter of Grant's cocky and rakish Sir Walter Elliot. After her family convinced her eight years earlier that she broke off her engagement to Cosmo Jarvis's Captain Frederick Wentworth, a decision she never recovered from, Anne is shocked when Wentworth returns to her life. .
He does this when his father is forced to leave the family estate to none other than Wentworth's brother-in-law in an attempt to reduce the family's debts. Naturally, when the pair start seeing each other again, sparks fly.
The first trailer for the film, which was released last month, drew comparisons to Fleabag as Johnson's Elliot breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly into the camera throughout the film. While Fleabag was adored by critics, Persuasion was less well received, with the film currently holding a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in a new tab), not to mention the truly awful reviews, prior to its release on July 15.
How bad are the reviews?
really bad. The Observer's Wendy Ide (opens in a new tab) called the film's script, which comes from Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, a "farce" and was unimpressed with the narrative choice of speaking to the camera. Ide called the Fleabag-esque device "...deaf, demonstrating so little sensitivity to the delicate precision of Austen's handwriting, that one wonders why she didn't go all out with squawks. of comedic trombones and an audience laugh track." Oh.
Mashable's Kristy Puchko (opens in a new tab) wrote that Persuasion "...gropes for its heroine, humor and romance," while The Times's Kevin Maher (opens in a new tab) called Johnson "...wildly misunderstood here as Anne and described the film as a "chaotic mess".
(Image credit: Netflix)
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the film "...sufficient and ill-conceived". Meanwhile, Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph compared Persuasion unflatteringly to Bridgerton, describing the film's version of Austen's story as "...showing off an old copy of the novel in a full cosplay selfie, but holding it upside down." », which is not pleasant. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly also weighed in, writing that the film "...chooses to use its source material as a thin disposable skin, removing many vital organs (brain, heart) and most of the subtleties as it goes."
However, a handful of reviews were more positive. Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth was on board, giving the film three stars and praising Johnson's turn. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wasn't very complimentary, but he wasn't firm either, calling Persuasion "...an indie rom-com tied only to its origins, the film a sweet distraction." Needless to say, these are not the items Netflix would have hoped for.
Analysis: Will Netflix care?
The movie won't be released until July 15, so who knows if audiences will like it or not?
Bad reviews haven't stopped the smashing-action Interceptor from getting great ratings on Netflix, but that's a different thing. In recent years, Jane Austen's novels have won many Stardust Awards. 1995's Sense and Sensibility earned Emma Thompson an Oscar for her screenplay among seven other nominations, while the 1996 remake of Emma won Best Original Score in 1996. In 2005, Keira Knightley was also nominated for Best Actress for Pride. and prejudice. Netflix execs love to win awards, so it's going to be a big hit. Having spent money getting an expensive cast, with sought-after talent like Johnson and Golding, this movie was a priority for Netflix.
Still, with The Sea Beast much better since its release on July 8 and The Gray Man set to arrive on July 22, perhaps the streaming giant shouldn't worry too much about Persuasion's less-than-stellar reception. We'll have to see how Persuasion lands with the public and how many people stream it over the next weekend.
For more Netflix-based content, check out our pick of the best movies and TV shows on the world's most popular streamer.