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Netflix’s Persuasion – Every Mistake

Between the anachronisms, the fourth-wall breaks, and Anne Elliot’s character assassination, Netflix’s Persuasion could be Austen’s worst adaptation. Netflix’s adaptation of Persuasion has reached the coveted number one spot on the streaming service, the literary rom-com has a lot of major issues that are hard to ignore. It is not easy to bring a beloved piece of fiction to life onscreen. If an adaptation is too faithful to its source material, viewers can be left wondering why they didn’t just read the book instead, whereas if an adaptation strays too far from its source, this can anger fans who wanted to see their favorite book brought to life onscreen.

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Enough explanation from me and hopefully useful for all of us.

Netflix’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion arrived online, it was clear that the creators of the romantic comedy/drama opted to go with the latter route. Where Austen’s novel was an atypically reserved, melancholic book, Persuasion’s promotional materials promised a quirky, upbeat rom-com. Netflix’s Persuasion, it seemed, was determined to turn Austen’s saddest story into a fun, summery lark.

Emma 2020 Compares To Jane Austen’s Book: Biggest Autumn de Wilde’s Emma updates Jane Austen’s beloved tale of romance and comedy in Regency England, but how is the new film different from the book? Emma (2020) is a fun, frothy adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel that sparkles with wit; Emma refreshes the book’s familiar love story for modern audiences with artistic choices that make it different from the original source. The new film adaptation centers on the privileged life of 21 year-old Emma Woodhouse, who is “handsome, clever, and rich” and possesses “some of the best blessings in existence”, but can’t keep from meddling in the romantic lives of her friends and love ones. Originally published in 1815, the popular novel has been adapted to the big screen yet again, this time by novelist Eleanor Catton, whose clever script updates Austen’s tale of misguided romance and comedy in a progressive way. So how is the movie different from Austen’s original tale? Emma is portrayed with coquettish flair by Anya Taylor-Joy, whose penetrating doe eyes and self-aware coyness strike the right balance between the character’s genuine kind-heartedness and smug superiority. Emma lives at home with her finicky and aging father, played with gleeful relish by Bill Nighy in a small but scene-stealing role, and is frequently visited by her moralistic brother-in-law and life-long friend, resident bachelor George Knightley, (characterized with intense candor by Johnny Flynn). Leading a charmed life, Emma avoids the societal pressures of matrimony by placing her aristocratic nose into the business and romantic interests of others. Predictably, her match-making skills leave a lot to be desired, and complications ensue that drive the plot toward Emma’s own romantic awakening.

Wilde’s vision of Emma is whimsically nuanced, punched up with vibrant colors, a droll soundtrack, deliciously eccentric performances and a slick self-assuredness akin to the story’s eponymous character. Taylor-Joy’s Emma saunters about the fictional village of Highbury — spoiled and proud, yet inherently likable — the most-popular girl of Regency England. The movie captures the playful tone, satire and penetrating wit of Austen’s novel, and Wilde takes care to satisfy cherished staples of the Regency period drama canon — elegant ballroom scenes, lavish set design, comedic impropriety contrasting the period’s strict decorum, witty dialogue, and a revelatory moment in which the film’s protagonists stride across a lawn toward one another to boldly declare feelings of long-repressed love. Although Wilde expertly plays within the contextual themes of the novel, she inserts a few modern twists of her own — most notably, the film’s underlying statement about masculinity and the shifting power dynamics of gender roles.

Jane Austen fans, evidenced by the comments section of the trailer online. While a lot of reviews defend Netflix’s Persuasion against purists by insisting that the adaptation was intended to update the source novel, many Austen fans had no problem with this approach. The earlier Netflix hit Bridgerton, after all, had already brought color-blind casting, sexual liberation, and sassy, independent heroines to the Regency period, so taking the same approach to Austen’s Georgian stories made sense. Instead, fans were annoyed that Netflix’s Persuasion appeared to miss the point of Anne Elliot’s character. Now that the movie has arrived, while Persuasion might be the number one movie on Netflix, the adaptation turns out to have a whole host of problems, some predicated on its relationship with the source material and some of its own creation.

Persuasion aims to modernize Austen’s novel by making its heroine more accessible, but it profoundly misreads her character in the process. Austen has a lot of fiery, independent heroines who can hold their own against any male character, among them Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne Dashwood, Emma’s Emma Woodhouse, and Pride and Prejudice’s Lizzie Bennett. However, Persuasion is a compelling tragedy precisely because Anne isn’t one of these women, something that Netflix’s movie adaptation misses out on completely. Like Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price, Persuasion’s heroine is a more meek, less self-assured presence, with this pivotal detail defining her entire character arc.

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