By: Amanda Guarragi
The newest Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion explores the yearning for lost love. When Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) — the one who got away — crashes back into Anne Elliot’s (Dakota Johnson) life, she must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances. All Jane Austen novels have one lead character who has a certain standard for romance and love. This film is another reminder that there is no right way to love someone or find someone in this life because the path keeps changing for everyone. Even though this isn’t the best adaptation, there was still some charm to it.
First and foremost, Dakota Johnson was miscast in this period piece. For some strange reason, she just doesn’t suit the period. On top of that, the quirky fourth wall breaks and narration by Anne Elliot will take you out of the movie entirely. Understandably, this is Anne’s internal monologue – especially when introducing new characters- but the editing did not work in its favour. Every time there was somewhat of an engaging scene, the fourth wall would abruptly cut the flow. It’s as if the filmmaking was a bit too modern for its good in capturing Austen’s original story. There are some great moments that Johnson had, such tender and emotional ones, but they were undercut by the editing choices.
The story is about Anne’s lost love returning from sea after eight years, and wondering if he still loves her. They go from exes to friends, to the middle ground that we all like to call a situationship. Johnson and Jarvis had strong chemistry, but it didn’t jump off the screen like other Austen adaptations. It felt a bit dull and uninteresting. When Mr. Elliot (Henry Golding) enters there’s a different spark in Anne’s eyes and the conversation is different. There’s playful banter and a much better connection between Golding and Johnson. However, Anne remains torn between old, comfortable love, and a new, unpredictable one. Anyone can relate to Anne’s misfortune in finding love, but it’s impossible to think that Johnson has ever gone through that.
Seeing Dakota Johnson in Persuasion is just a bit odd. It’s not to say she doesn’t give a strong performance, but she just doesn’t suit the period. When watching this, it’s more so Johnson acting as herself in a British accent, than taking on the role of Anne Elliot. At times she was quite charming as Anne, but those fourth wall breaks made it impossible to stay in line with the character. There were some humorous moments as well, but the majority of the time it didn’t stick the landing. It’s more the execution of the story than the romantic Austen tale itself. It had the potential to be great and it needed a bit more Henry Golding.