‘Persuasion’ Review – Dakota Johnson Looks Like A Painting In This Picturesque And Plotless Netflix Film


Bridgerton” is clearly one of the most popular shows to claim a spot in the Regency Era drama genre. It has been lauded for its searing romantic plots and subplots, gorgeous costume designs, lavish sets, color-blind casting, and orchestral renditions of modern songs. And although it has become a stereotype for cis-het men to not like such things, I am a fan. “Emma,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Amadeus,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Becoming Jane,” and “Marie Antoinette” are just some of the best examples. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has killed my interest in this sub-genre more than “Bridgerton.” So, approaching “Persuasion” with a lot of trepidation wasn’t an option. However, I can say that I enjoyed most of it.

Based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name, “Persuasion” is directed by Carrie Cracknell and written by Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow. It opens with Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) narrating how she was persuaded to let go of the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis). And she has been moping around about it for eight years. Her father is Sir Walter Elliot (Richard E. Grant). She has an elder sister, Elizabeth Elliot (Yolanda Kettle), and she has a younger sister, Mary Musgrove (Mia McKenna-Bruce), who is married to Charles Musgrove (Ben Bailey-Smith). After auditors arrive to downsize Walter’s estate, Anne is forced to go and live with Mary’s family, which includes her two children, Little Charles (Hardy Yusuf) and James (Jake Siame), and her sisters-in-law, Louisa (Nia Towle) and Henrietta (Izuka Hoyle). After getting there, she learns that Wentworth is coming there to pay the Musgroves a visit.

As someone who hasn’t read the original text for this, “Persuasion” feels largely plotless. You get to sit comfortably in the mind of Anne Elliot and roam about the lavish gardens and gorgeous beaches, giggle with her immediate and extended family, pine for (apparently) pretty-looking men, and tend to a couple of adorable kids. Yes, of course, there is a plot that involves the acquisition of Walter’s belongings and the romance between Anne and Wentworth, both of which are upended by the arrival of Mr. Elliot (Henry Golding). But Cracknell’s direction never makes it seem that they are the central focus of the movie. She seems more inclined towards crafting these serene, perfectly-lit, and immaculately composed frames, with the help of cinematographer Joe Anderson, production designer John Paul Kelly, art director Keith Slote, set decorator Faye Brothers, and costume designer Marianne Agertoft. And thanks to Pani Scott’s deliberately slow-paced editing, you get to marinate in these picturesque settings.

Now, this reaction can be the result of the barrage of unnecessarily plot-heavy films or shows, that are so dumb that its director has to preface it by saying that you need to switch off your brain before watching it, that are coming our way. If watched in a vacuum, maybe “Persuasion” would’ve been one of the most boring viewing experiences ever. But, in these specific circumstances, it feels like a balm that soothes the brain and the soul. All that said, it does turn into a tedious watch every time the male love interests (or any of the male characters) try to strike up a conversation. As long as we are in Anne’s brain, hearing her many observations, listening to her recite poems, and observing the myriad of expressions that Dakota Johnson is able to conjure, it’s fine. However, it becomes a little grating whenever Cracknell tries to move the plot forward. And while that is a problem created by the film’s writing, it’s a performance-related issue as well.

Dakota Johnson, as always, looks like a painting in “Persuasion.” She is so effortlessly hilarious, charming, and undoubtedly gorgeous. Her accent is fine (I am sure an accent-expert will find problems with it) because it never takes you out of the viewing experience. Her fourth-wall breaks are so welcoming. And she looks perfectly at home in front of these scenic landscapes. Richard E. Grant, Yolanda Kettle, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Lydia Rose Bewley, Nia Towle, Izuka Hoyle, Hardy Yusuf, Jake Siame, and Ben Bailey-Smith are great. But the actress who is the best of the lot (I am sorry, Dakota) is Mia McKenna-Bruce. The way she quickly shifts from one excuse to another to get more attention, and the way she expresses that with her whole body, face, and vocal inflections, is *chef’s kiss*. Everyone has such an attention-seeker in the family, and Mia essentially embodies all of them. Cosmo Jarvis and Henry Golding are atrocious. Zero chemistry. Zero charm. Zero anything. That’s why the scenes they are in simply suck!

In conclusion, I recommend giving “Persuasion” a try. The weather is extremely hot outside. Tensions are high due to political and communal reasons. Unless you are in a position of power and influence, you can not do anything to change any of it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But you need to recharge your batteries before waging the proverbial (or maybe literal) battle. And said recharging can’t be done with high-octane action extravaganzas. Those will only exhaust you. You need something to give you some peace of mind and offer a little perspective on life in general. That’s exactly what Carrie Cracknell’s film does, as she gives you romantic frames and a dreamy lead actress to lose yourself in. Also, it will surely revive your love for dramas set in the Regency Era if you have recently been burned by the obnoxious “Bridgerton.”

See More: ‘Persuasion’ Ending, Explained: Did Anne Elliot And Frederick Wentworth Fall Back In Love?

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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