SBD: Persuasion (again)

‘Tis Monday, and Beth has charged any and all with the SBD.

If you’ve read my archives, you’ll know that I [heart] Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  And I’ve SBD’d about it a couple of times.  But, y’know, it’s a classic, so there’s always more to say about it.

And here’s my first bit of bitchery:

Dear PBS/Masterpiece Theatre:

What were you thinking? Why did you mangle Jane Austen’s Persuasion so?  

I saw at your website that Andrew Davies wrote the screen play for four of the productions; I could tell that this one was not on the list even without being told.  Why?  Because the text of the book was hacked apart, with bits of dialogue being rearranged and inserted helter skelter, without regard for where they actually belong in the story.

I haven’t checked out the direction or cinematography; will I recognize the names, or will I learn that Persuasion was their debut?  I can only hope the later.  The blocking was awkward; the acting was wooden; the shots and lighting were odd.  At one point, the frame seemed to vibrate as if the filming was being done by a handheld camera — that modern technique did not fit the story well at all.

And the casting.  Where to start?  The fellow who played Giles in Buffy played Sir Walter Elliot; not bad but not as foppishly foolish as Colin Redgrave.  The sister?  Eh.  Mrs. Clay?  Okay.  Admiral and Mrs. Croft?  Didn’t really suit the crusty admiral established in the book and she just seemed silly.  And Anne.  That actress was woefully miscast in my opinion.  She seemed unable to convey anything other than a sort of pathetic mooniness.  Captain Wentworth?  Well, Rupert Penry-Jones was not at all hard on the eyes.  Not who I would’ve cast, but his prettiness distracted me from the horror of the screen play.

Anne goes running around Bath, chasing after Wentworth?  I cannot imagine any Austen heroine doing that.

I’ve saved the biggest offense for last:  you butcher The Letter.  *splutters incoherently*  The Letter?  Is sacrosanct.  Do. Not. Edit.  Ever.

I’m going to watch the 1995 version of Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, erasing this version from my memory.

Utterly disappointed,

Edited for verb tenses, etc.


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20 responses to “SBD: Persuasion (again)

  1. I watched it too, and my thought was that the 1995 film was probably more true to the book (which I, sadly, haven’t read…yet). I certainly don’t remember ANY Austen heroine running pell-mell around Bath.
    The thing that disconcerted me most (besides having the Borg Queen in it) was the fact that Anne kept freakin’ looking directly at the camera. WTF? What is this, Scrubs does Jane Austen?
    It does not bode well for the other “new” adaptations.

    • That was a nod to the Mansfield Park I think, in which Fanny is the young Jane Austen. They have Anne writing the omniscient narrator’s words in her diary, which is wrong, and Anne has the same look on her face that Fanny had in Rozema’s MP. Aargh.

  2. Without a hat!!!! And then he’s riding around the countryside in his shirt sleeves! Aargh! Aargh!
    And not only did they butcher the letter, they butchered the overheard scene that produce the letter, having Anne and Benwick say the words about constancy in LYME when CPT Wentworth doesn’t overhear them! Aargh! As someone who has studied and written about Austen’s stunning skill in constructing that scene, in which Anne expresses all the desire she has for Wentworth to understand her (she KNEW he was listening!), to have it hacked like that was just wrong wrong WRONG!
    And what was with Elizabeth’s hair?! So wrong. Just. Aargh!

    • The hatless and shirt sleeves bothered me as I watched, but I couldn’t put my finger on why, exactly. It just seemed wrong, but now that you point it out, I realize that no gentleman would’ve gone hatless or wandered about in his shirt sleeves.
      And not only did they butcher the letter, they butchered the overheard scene that produce the letter, having Anne and Benwick say the words about constancy in LYME.
      I shouted at the television during that scene. How were they were going to work the letter and the reconciliation into the screenplay after that, I wondered? Plus, the overhearing, listening, and attention that precede the letter are the most important parts of the book, changing the dynamic between Anne and Wentworth.
      Re: the hair, I don’t know much about period styles, but Elizabeth’s hair looked out of place in comparison to everyone else’s. And what did they put in it – a cone of some sort? – to make it stand up that way?
      Okay, plus, buying Kellynch as a wedding present? No. Going back to Kellynch is like returning to the oppressive world in which Anne grew up. And Wentworth does not belong among the landed community or the traditional.

      • The hair is very 18thC. The style of the Romantic era is natural hair, natural color, natural lines and shapes, so if Elizabeth is all about being au courant, she’s not going to do that to her hair and look like her grandmother, for god’s sake.
        The ending of the Root/Hinds film with her on the ship is a MUCH better understanding of the themes of the book.
        And SHE was hatless in her running through Bath, which is even worse than him being hatless.

      • Her hatlessness didn’t bother me as much as the running. Did ladies run anywhere?

  3. Anonymous

    LOL. I enjoyed it all right, but now you all are making me rethink. There were a lot of problems. The only thing that really bothered me at the time was the mangling of the letter scene and Anne running around at the end. As soon as she started talking to Bennick at Lyme, I couldn’t believe it. THAT DOESN’T GO THERE!!
    Oh, and the rushed bit they stuck in at the end when Mrs. Smith says that Mr. Elliot had acquired Mrs. Clay as his mistress for after he was married to Anne. But then, to be honest, much as I LOVE the book, I never thought Mr. Elliot’s intentions were explained all that well.

    • If I didn’t love the book and the earlier movie version so much, I probably would’ve been less dissatisfied. Or, as Marianne McA mentions below, if my anticipation had been just for a period piece, I probably would’ve liked it more.
      I’m on the fence about watching the other adaptations, particularly for S&S, which I love. P&P and Emma I don’t feel the same attachment, so I’m likely to be much less critical.

  4. Anonymous

    Oh. My. God.
    Ranty McRant:
    It was horrible. Horrible. Wretchedly, painfully, unspeakably horrible.
    I kept watching the train wreck in slow motion to the end. Anne looked like a New Yorker from an Italian neighborhood bawling over tragic chick lit. She cried. And then she cried more. And then she blubbered and whined and gulped and gasped and stuck out her trembling lower lip the WHOLE frikken TIME. When she wasn’t bawling and mewling, she was snippy to Lady Russell and Charles. Snippy! Anne Elliot! He says he’ll stay with her when she sprains her ankle and she bites his head off, then limps behind like a sick puppy. You wanted to slap and say, “Stand up straight, didn’t your governess ever put a backboard on you?”
    And what’s this snarky, “I don’t BLAME you, Lady Russell…” line?!
    And yeah, WHY did they hack it up that way? Anne acted like someone in a bad internet relationship, running hysterically through the street chasing the guy who rejected her.
    It was weird. Did the pregnant sister have a tic or something? Mr. Elliot the cousin seemed as if he was going to grab Anne any second and sink his fangs into her throat.
    Wentworth was the only one who was fine. No complaints there but he couldn’t carry this sinking ship alone.
    Dang, and I was so looking forward to a comfy evening on the couch watching it.

    • Anonymous

      Re: Oh. My. God.
      Oops forgot to sign.
      Rant, proudly signed,
      Laura Kinsale

    • Re: Oh. My. God.
      Anne looked like a New Yorker from an Italian neighborhood bawling over tragic chick lit. She cried. And then she cried more.
      Exactly! Well, not the image, because I never would’ve thought to phrase it that way. But the crying. The Anne Elliot presented in the book is much more stoic. She may have cried, but never that much. And she defined the stiff upper lip.

  5. Anonymous

    Yay fellow hatred!
    Okay so I had to watch it even though I was fairly certain it’d be bad (because Brit-produced period pieces are, in my experience, awful more than half the time – so I try not to get my hopes up) but (a) it’s PERSUASION which I could not possibly love more even if I practiced at it, and (b) I wanted to see Giles playing a part that wasn’t Giles. He was okay – played it kinda mean instead of foppish, but it worked for me. Unlike about all of the other secondary characters.
    And I do think there were 2 or 3 really good moments, both visually and in the acting, but man were they rare. Mostly I just watched in complete horror. My jaw nearly broke when it hit the floor as Anne gave Benwick the “women love longest even when hope is gone” bit AND THEY JUST MET AND WENTWORTH CAN’T HEAR HER AND IT’S NOT THE END AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING AAAAAGH. I was just stunned, and I don’t think I recovered after that. By the time she was jogging around Bath at the end, my brain hurt from trying to understand how the hell anyone could’ve gotten anything so very very wrong.
    And I didn’t like the portrayal of Wentworth. Not like he’s wildly fleshed out in the book, but in this adaptation I just felt like he was a cardboard cut-out interchangeable Guy. A pretty one, don’t get me wrong, but a baked potato has more intense feelings seething just beneath the surface than that guy does. Jaysus.
    Clearly I don’t have to say anything about how unbearably wrong Anne was. You all have covered that nicely. I just kept thinking “But I LIKE Anne Eliot, I really do! So why do I want to shove her face in a toilet and flush? Repeatedly!”
    It really left an awful taste in my mouth, so I have to go rent that better version that the others have mentioned (and which I love, and which made me read the book in the first place). I bet there’ll be a run on it at the video store.

    • Anonymous

      Re: Yay fellow hatred!
      okay so:
      I shouldn’t watch this when it repeats later on this week. Got it.
      kate r

      • Re: Yay fellow hatred!
        You could watch for the train wreck factor 🙂
        And maybe you’ll like it — there are commenters over at SBTB who appear to have enjoyed it.

      • Anonymous

        Re: Yay fellow hatred!
        no, I tend not to like the adaptations that make Austen too active and bouncy and overwrought. I never particularly liked Aiken’s Austen finishing up jobs. It’s the tiny bit of ivory, she said, that means NOT opera.
        kate r

      • Anonymous

        Re: Yay fellow hatred!
        and that’ll just get me started on the whole “Why Can’t They Talk More and Chase Fewer Bad Guys in Romance” jag. and then the “Oooo, traditional Regencies, How I Miss You” moaning. And I’ll do some heavy breathing, too.
        Kate r

  6. Anonymous

    “Anne goes running around Bath, chasing after Wentworth? I cannot imagine any Austen heroine doing that.”
    That bothered me on two levels. I watched these when they were shown in the UK with my daughter, which was interesting, because I knew the books and she didn’t – so I was watching an adaption, while she was watching a period drama.
    So, yes – that whole last section was an awful mess if you were wanting an adaption, but more than that, I don’t see it was satisfactory even if you didn’t know the book.
    Whatever way they shot the running sequence, it just looked silly – but more importantly, I don’t think that’s the way that story goes. If, ignoring Austen, you try and create a romantic end to the period drama – the faithful, slighted partner always gets their reward – the other person comes to them. That’s their reward for having such a hard time during the story.
    So I thought the ending didn’t work on either level.
    Marianne McA

    • If, ignoring Austen, you try and create a romantic end to the period drama – the faithful, slighted partner always gets their reward – the other person comes to them. That’s their reward for having such a hard time during the story.
      Yes. Yes. Having Anne chase Wentworth around after all of his slights, etc., just seems to make her rather pathetic. Makes for a dramatic meeting up later, but lacks some poetic justice on the romance side.

      • Anonymous

        Pathetic. That’s exactly the word. She played it like Anne was a frantic bawling teenager dumped by her first boyfriend.
        And all the breathing was too loud, come to think of it. You could hear everyone panting and wheezing the whole time. During her marathon run around Bath, she sounded like a pig rushing to the trough, gulping air and slops. Austen’s Anne Elliot was a cool, reserved character; a regular cold fish in some ways. This Anne made Louisa Musgrove look tame.
        I don’t usually get quite this catty, but I really don’t see any rationale for what they did here; it was just gratuitous oddness.
        Ok, I’ll leave it alone now. Really.

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