Persuasion 1995

    Park me in front of a television playing the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion” and you can be assured that I’ll be reduced to a sighing, heart-clutching, swooning, sappy mess. And I’m not even ashamed to admit it. 

 
Proximity excites me.
   
   You wouldn’t be either if you knew the story of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Estranged after Anne is persuaded to reject Frederick’s proposal, the couple meet again after eight years only to find that the feelings which they thought to be so strong in their past have yet to go away. Ah, constancy! How you make me swoon. 
Anne Elliot
    And this film captures all that is swoon-worthy about this Austen novel. The chemistry between the two leads is palpably sizzling. The air around the screen crackled with it.
Amanda Root plays the quietly strong Anne Elliot. Following her rejection of Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), she has not given thought to marrying anyone else. With that desire, her ‘bloom’ in life also fades, apparently, and so she is relegated to the background of everyone’s lives, forced to tolerate their snubs and attempt to right their wrongs. Root is great at portraying Anne’s infinite patience and ultimate resignation when it comes to the way the Elliot family treat Anne. Respect is something that is utterly foreign to them, and, if anything, Anne is viewed at best as a lady’s maid. Anne, too, has accepted her position without question and goes about her tasks without any contempt or bitterness. It’s evident in every word, look and movement delivered by Root that Anne views this as her punishment for having turned on the one man who was willing to accept all of her. 
Frederick Wentworth
   Speaking of whom – Ciaran Hinds is impeccable  as Captain Wentworth. He dominates his role so well that he totally submerges himself in the character of Frederick Wentworth. Frederick’s attempt at indifference, his hurt at Anne’s rejection – still there after so many years, his inability to ignore Anne’s well being, are so masterfully portrayed by Hinds. The interaction between Anne and Frederick – and believe me when I say there aren’t many – were brilliantly layered, with the superficial niceties blanketing their painful history but never banishing it from the viewer’s mind. Also, Hinds cuts a very dashing figure in his navy coat. No wonder the Misses Musgrove were all over him. 
The most tantalizing shot in the entire film.
   Anne and Wentworth’s reunion following the letter is perfection – it weighs with all their unsaid words, and yet displays the joy that both undoubtedly feel at such an event. It is poignant and perfect, and, in my opinion, has yet to be topped (yes, I’m looking at you 2006 adaptation!). The kiss is a brief one, but the small gestures – Wentworth taking Anne’s hand in his, Anne weaving her arm through his and then looking up at him are subtle but very overpowering. All this occurs with some street performers in the background, a travelling circus that has captured everyone’s attention. Everyone’s, that is, except Anne’s and Wentworth’s. Yes, my inner Austenite is squealing.
   
  However, let’s not ignore the supporting cast, because it’s a brilliant one. Sir Walter Elliot is exquisitely portrayed by Corin Redgrave. I wanted to strangle him – I wanted to rip off his insufferable cravat, mess up his hair and tie him up with his own pantaloons. That kind of reaction must indicate a good performance, methinks. His arrogance and vanity were undeniable, but it was his almost indifferent attitude towards others that really caught my eye. Yes, it’s a given that he would be indifferent to Anne, but it’s pretty evident that he doesn’t care for anyone really but himself. 
Sir Walter Elliot & Hideous Outfit
   Lady Russell was played by Susan Fleetwod. My only real problem with her is a superficial one. What is going on with that hair? I had no idea they had that kind of fringe in the nineteenth century. Other than that she was a wonderful Lady Russell, portraying a compassionate and caring confidant for our heroine. There are some truly sweet moments between her and Anne. 
Lady Russell
   Mrs DurselyFiona Shaw plays Mrs. Croft, Frederick’s brother, and it warmed my old romantic heart to see her get on so well with Anne. The chemistry between those two was believable as well. There was a very clear wish on both sides to better their acquaintance and Fiona Shaw has this subtle way of acting as if Mrs. Croft knows what’s going on with Frederick and Anne. 
Anne & Mrs. Croft
   
   Sophie Thompson is utterly insufferable as Mary Musgrove, Anne’s youngest and most aggravating sister. She nothing but bitterness, arrogance and laziness. I couldn’t fathom why they chose the person they did to play Elizabeth, however. From what I remember Elizabeth is supposed to be the best looking of the Elliot sisters and this woman was definitely not beautiful. I know she is supposed to be arrogant and slightly short-tempered but she only came across as petulant and childish. Not my favourite portrayal.
 
Mary Musgrove
Elizabeth & Mrs. Clay
   
    Speaking of being miscast, Mrs. Clay seems to be another error. Sir Walter Elliot seemed to favour her so much due to her good looks – at least, that was the case with the novel. I’m not quite sure why he favours her so much here. All his barbed jokes regarding the navy’s lack of good looks seem to fall flat with Mrs. Clay laughing so heartily at them. Do I sound horrible? Yes, I do. But I’m speaking for the novel! And that‘s what the novel feels, apparently.

Mr. Elliot
   Mr. Elliot, Frederick’s ‘rival’, was played by the good-looking Samuel West. He‘s very good at portraying the subtle self-interest that propels all of Mr. Elliot’s actions. All of his smiles and words are lined with an artifice, while still appearing to be genuine.
   The cinematography was unexpectedly impressive. There are some beautiful shots, especially of the seaside – but also some visual metaphors and juxtaposition to keep your eyes peeled for. I feel as if the cinematography could have been better – especially with a story like “Persuasion” where there isn’t a swirling plot to reel the viewers in, but as I say it was better than expected. I would love for someone to give it the visual vibrancy that Joe Wright injected into the 2005 Pride & Prejudice. 
At Lyme
   
   I had one major problem with this film. People’s table manners seem a little ill-suited to their time period and class distinction. There’s a breakfast scene at Uppercross with Charles Musgrove vacuuming the table’s toppings and I was little disgusted at how did it. But even more unacceptable was the way in which Elizabeth chewed her sweets. I expected more from the daughter of someone who holds a baronetcy but I suppose that was mere foolishness on my part. 
   Aside from questionable table manners, however, the film is a thoroughly enjoyable one. It gives off a very ‘raw’ and real vibe; there’s a sort of tangibility there, a realness is created for a time that’s very far from modern-day viewers. The acting from everyone was spot on, and if you’ve read the book, very easily recognizable, too. 
Wentworth & Anne
    
   This adaptation makes for a very pleasant viewing and will leave you with warm fuzzies to last you for an entire day. Possibly more. And we could all of us use some warm fuzzies, don’t you think?
   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain
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9 thoughts on “Persuasion 1995

  1. Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen novels, second only to Pride And Prejudice. I haven't watched this screen adaptation but it sounds very well done. I just love Anne and Wentworth and their beautiful story. Lol about Mrs Dursley being cast 🙂
    I enjoyed reading your post, I'll have to see if I can rent this version.
    Good Austen film adaptations turn me into a heart clutching sappy mess as well. I really enjoyed the BBC version of Persuasion. I think they do a nice job at bringing Austen's stories on screen.
    Have you seen any of those? Sense & Sensibility was so nice as was P&P. Although I love the more recent movie version of P&P.

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  2. Yes, it's hard not to fall in love with their story – heart-clutches all the way!
    Haha, I loved Fiona Shaw in it! You should watch it just for her.
    Hmm, haven't seen the BBC version of Persuasion – seen snippets on Youtube though. It looked kind of dry =\
    Indeed I have seen the BBC P&P and S&S (the newer one) – they're both great! If I had to choose out of the P&P adaptations I would've chosen the BBC one but the new one has a visual charm that the BBC can't even dream of competing with.

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  3. I love Anne & Wentworth's story more than possibly any other Austen couple. CONSTANCY, dammit! And I've heard nothing but amazing things about this particular adaptation and how utterly perfect it is in every way. I have a copy of it on my computer actually – can't wait to see it now. Also is the BBC Persuasion the above commenter is referring to is the Sally Hawkins one? Because that one was a bit meh, although Rupert Penry-Jones makes for a super fine-looking Wentworth.

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  4. Haha, error of the grammar is excusable when it's due to such excitement over Persuasion.
    YES!! Anne & Wentworth are my favorite Austen couple, too. It's my favorite Austen novel, period.
    You've got a copy? Watch it! Watch it! Watch it!
    No, the BBC one that naida is referring to is a much older one than the Sally Hawkins version. The Hawkins one was filmed in 2006. And yes, it WAS a bit meh – actually it's a little worse than meh in my eyes. Indeed, he does make a super fine-looking Wentworth 😉 But Hinds is better in my opinion. He's somehow more manly *glazed eyes* I'd love to know what you think of it after you watch it!

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  5. Excellent review – I agree with your perspective on Anne and Wentworth especially, and also on Anne's father. I thought that was a great role! My fave part which makes me laugh every time is when Wentworth arrives at the Italian concert and Anne's dad does this strange little muttering as if greeting as he bows towards Wentworth – all very fake because he also puts across that he thinks nothing of Wentworth in general. I guess the Elizabeth character worked for me just because she was so wrapped up in herself, but I agree, the actress playing Mrs. Clay just wasn't all…that!

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  6. I'm so sorry my reply's so late! But thank you very much for your comment.

    And yes! I love that scene, too. You can see he resents the fact that he has to accept Wentworth now because society does, and he totally abides by their rules so kinda trapped there, mister.

    Oh, definitely, the woman who played her did do a goodjob, don't get me wrong. She was so selfish and sullen and detestable, but there were times when it descended into childish selfishness (but maybe all selfishness is a little childish?)

    And yeah, appearance-wise she seemed rather miscast.

    Glad to hear your thoughts 🙂

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