I had been wanting to mention that Masterpiece (formerly Masterpiece Theatre) on PBS was going to be showing a series of films based on Jane Austen novels, but Masterpiece can be a mixed bag sometimes, so I thought I’d better watch the first one before mentioning it.
Persuasion was shown this past Sunday night. I taped it and watched it in two parts yesterday.
I mentioned in an earlier review of the novel that Persuasion is my favorite of the Austen books I have read so far, and I loved the 1995 film adaptation with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, so any new version would have a lot to live up to.
I have to say I didn’t like this new version as well. Rupert Penry-Jones made a handsome enough Captain Wentworth, but I couldn’t really see him as a naval captain. Sally Hawkins showed a lot of the nuances of Anne’s feeling perhaps a little more than Amanda Root did, but I felt the latter “blossomed” from the mousy bedraggled Anne into a woman in love and more sure of herself more than the former did. Mary, Anne’s sister, is supposed to be annoying, but this version of her grated to me.
I didn’t like the jumpy camera shots in this production, nor the way Anne kept looking directly at the camera. I especially didn’t like the chopping up of Austen’s narrative, particularly placing Anne’s line that “The one claim I shall make for my own sex is that we love longest, when all hope is gone” at a dinner party in the middle when Wentworth is out of earshot rather than near the end, in a conversation which Wentworth overhears and which leads his to reveal his love for Anne. I know some changes have to occur when adapting a book to film, but placing such a major line out of sequence is jarring and disappointing. I found Anne’s running through the streets trying to catch up to Wentworth near the end to be very uncharacteristic of what a lady’s behavior would have been at that time in that culture, though I know the producers were trying to show that Anne was determined this time to let Wentworth know her feelings. And that was about the worst movie kiss I have ever seen, or at least the worst lead-in to a kiss.
Overall the production felt very rushed. I don’t think 90 minutes can do the story justice.
I much preferred the older introduction to Masterpiece Theatre, with an affable host and a cozy, book-filled room. I suppose the new look is supposed to be glamorous, but I felt the hostess was somewhat stiff.
Still, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half. And from what I have read many who were unfamiliar with the story liked it, so perhaps this series will usher in a new generation of Austen fans.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series, which continues Sunday nights through April 6.