I have never read a Jane Austen novel. I have seen multiple versions of Pride and Prejudice. I have seen Emma and Clueless. Austen is a recurring source for solidly constructed, female-led, stories. Adapting these stories has been done well and done poorly. If you have not read the source material, you can form your own opinions by comparing different adaptations. For Persuasion, this film is all I must base my opinion on.
Dakota Johnson portrays Anne, the main character that breaks the fourth wall from time to time to give us explanations and smirks. Cosmo Jarvis plays Wentworth, the one that got away but has returned. A single beachside scene contained all the chemistry between these two characters, which is unfortunate since the film is 1:47 long.
The film is set in the early 19th century, but the cast contains black and Asian actors and actresses. It avoids making any political comments about race. I have wondered why, since actors are acting, why there is not more casting like this, putting the best person into the role regardless of race. I have reexamined this idea because of the film, and now wonder if the casting choices also need to influence the story. There were ample opportunities to put in subtle commentary on race, but none were taken advantage of.
I watched this on a lazy Sunday afternoon and found it pleasant. It was a pleasant film that left me feeling pleasant. None of the scenery or sets are overly colorful. None of the outfits are overly styled. The film is inoffensively pleasant. If you have this film on in the background, you will forget about it due to the overwhelming pleasantness. Jane Austen’s novels can be modernized or adapted or told straightforwardly and be compelling no matter which method you choose. Unfortunately, this version of Persuasion felt muddled in trying to modernize the dialog but nothing else. That does not take away from the pleasantness you can expect to feel by watching it.