Netflix's New Adaptation Of Jane Austen's Persuasion Branded 'Horrible' And 'A Travesty' By Critics
Lydia Rose Bewley, Richard E. Grant, Dakota Johnson and Yolanda Kettle in Netflix's new film Persuasion (Photo: NICK WALL/NETFLIX)
Critics have pulled precisely zero punches when it comes to Netflix’s new adaptation of a Jane Austen classic.
The new film Persuasion debuted on the streaming platform on Friday, with Dakota Johnson in the lead role of Anne Elliot and Cosmo Jarvis, Henry Golding and Richard E Grant in the supporting cast.
However, while Dakota’s performance has generally been well-received, the film itself – which updates the original text with modern references – has been pretty much unanimously slammed in reviews, who’ve branded it everything from “mortifying” and “torturous” to “truly horrible” and “one of the worst movies in recent memory”.
In short: Ouch.
Here’s a selection – both good and bad – of what the critics have had to say about Persuasion…
The Independent (1/5)
At no point during Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut do you ever get the sense that anyone’s actually read Persuasion. For those with even the slightest affinity for Austen’s work, it’s vaguely mortifying to watch – seeing one of her most beautifully moulded protagonists… stripped of her poetry and reduced to an Instagram caption about the pitfalls of millennial dating.
It is truly horrible. I would also add that everyone involved should probably be sent to prison. Not for life, but until we could be confident they’d learned the error of their ways and there was minimal risk of reoffending.
The Observer (1/5)
This adaptation… is a travesty. Cracknell beefs up the humour by having Johnson repeatedly make winking eye contact with the camera. It’s such a tone-deaf device, demonstrating so little sensitivity to the delicate precision of Austen’s writing, that you wonder why she didn’t just go the whole hog and bung in some comedy trombone quacks and an audience laugh track.
Daily Mail (1/5)
Having sprung to fame as masochistic Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades trilogy, [Dakota Johnson] subjects us to an altogether different form of torture in a truly dreadful Netflix adaptation of Jane Austen’s wonderful novel Persuasion.
This adaptation takes Austen’s most subtle, mature work… and unthinkingly slaps on a sassy, self-consciously millennial tone in an embarrassing attempt to force the brashest form of cultural relevancy onto a timeless novel.
The movie’s getting-down-on-the-youngs’-level pose often feels rather condescending, the result of a bad assumption about younger audiences’ capacity to understand or connect with something that isn’t spoon fed to them in shiny, appropriately hip packaging.
Not only the worst Austen adaptation but one of the worst movies in recent memory… There is updating classic literature to bring it in tune with modern sensibilities, and then there is insulting the viewer’s intelligence.
Persuasion is a dreadful film, never to be borne… [The film] appears to have lifted sentences from the novel and fed them through some kind of Instagram-filtering, catchphrase-generating, text-summarizing idiot bot.
Evening Standard (2/5)
This Netflix adaptation of the Jane Austen novel wants to be seen as wet-your-knickers funny. Oh dear. You need only take precautions if your bladder is loosened by cringing.
The Guardian (2/5)
Jane Austen’s calm, subtle novel gets the Fleabag treatment in this smirking romcom; it has more wrong notes than an inebriated squadron of harpists, including everything but a last-minute rush in a barouche to Bath airport.
I held out hope, because adaptation should embrace reinvention… So, it is with a heavy heart that I confess: this Persuasion fumbles its heroine, humour, and romance.
New York Times
For fans of Austen’s novel, it’s hard to imagine the director Carrie Cracknell’s version providing a sense of ease or escapism. Instead, the unbearable tension between past and present serves as a disarmingly naked window into the anxieties of current Hollywood filmmaking.
Den Of Geek
Persuasion isn’t good. But it isn’t unwatchable. It’s an annoying mess that somehow still demands your attention. It’s neither modern nor faithful, nor is it particularly original. And it’s likely to be remembered as an anachronism not just of the 1800s but of the 2020s too.
There’s scarcely a leisurely moment to be found in this propulsive, if somewhat scattershot and sometimes misguided, entertainment. At the very least, there is the constant welcome presence of Johnson, who gamely soldiers through the inspired and sometimes misguided aspects of this production and keeps it more or less on track. It’s unfaithful fun.
Where its narrative qualities excel, the film’s aesthetic appeal is slightly shakier… Despite these modern constraints, Cracknell’s adaptation crackles with life. Especially with an effervescent actress and hunky actor delivering compelling performances… this funny, poignant and enrapturing film gives ingenious new power to some of Jane Austen’s greatest hits.
Persuasion isn’t a great movie, maybe not even a good one. But its problems are failures of filmmaking, not necessarily of adaptation: Cracknell, who has until now worked largely in theatre, may make some choices that undermine her aims, but she gives no indication of being careless with the material—her affection for it comes through.
Persuasion is available to stream on Netflix now.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.