Friday, March 2, 2012

Film Review- Persuasion (1995)

I first read Persuasion, by Jane Austen about twelve years ago, and though I knew about this film version back then, it took me until just recently to see it. In the meantime Ciaran Hinds, who plays the romantic male lead, Capt. Frederick Wentworth, has become a much more familiar face, but even in this earlier work his acting chops are obvious. The problem with men in Jane Austen's novels is that they tend to be sort of stock characters; good, bad, brooding, fortune-seekers, snobs, indulgent fathers, but a few men get to be really conflicted. I sometimes think Persuasion would have been more interesting as told from Capt. Wentworth's point of view, as he tries to throw himself into his life on the high seas and forget about the daughter of a wealthy landowner who refuses his proposal. He returns to England after the defeat of Napoleon only to run into her again, and realizes he's not over her at all. It's an Austen novel, so of course it has a happy ending.

The actual story, however, is told from the woman, Anne Elliott's, point of view. Anne wanted to marry him, she loved him, but a nosy though well-meaning family friend persuaded (and keeps persuading) her not to. Quiet, obliging, a little on the older side, Anne does what's best for everyone else, which almost gets her married to the wrong man. Amanda Root does a great job with an essentially very straight-forward character. She's not a gorgeous Hollywood actress, and she does look a little bit older than our usual Emma, Jane, or Marianne "Austen heroines". I liked it. In fact, Persuasion may be my favorite Austen novel of all, because it suggests that it's never too late to find happiness, and that mousy people can learn to stand up for themselves and make the life that they want. Root shows all the patient suffering of a woman faced with the man she lost, watching him seem to move on. She looks simultaneously peeved and resigned that no one seems to think of her unless it's to get rid of her, and watching her play peace-maker between fractious relatives is humorous and sympathetic.

The lovely settings of the seaside, Bath, and the country all make for diverting and pleasant backdrops. The costumes are perfect, in that they aren't too luxurious, some of the diversity within uniforms is shown, and characters are more fully-rendered through what they wear. Our heroine is never too pretty, she shouldn't be, and yet she never looks shabby or ugly either, with a careful restraint in color that is bumped up towards the end.

A pleasant movie and an easy-to-read book, I recommend both to young and old alike.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! :-) I thought the costumes of this movie were great, and I think that Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel! :-) I love Captain Wentworth!
    -Julia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is great, isn't he? Beats the pants off of Edward in S&S.

      Delete
  2. Persuasion is my favorite book and I love the movie. She does look the proper age, unlike Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in P & P.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you seen the more recent version of Sense & Sensibility? The actresses in that one were younger and they spent more time on the youngest sister, Margaret.

      Delete
  3. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel and I love this movie. I saw it when it was quite new, but I have returned to it several times- especially when I feel a bit fragile.

    I remember reading an article about Persuasion once where it commented on Anne's sexiness. Of course Austen doesn't go outright and say it, but every single man in the book falls for her and the rest likes her company a lot. Only Anne, being so used to being a nobody, never realizes that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that Anne's obliviousness to her own charms is part of what makes her so likeable. If she knew the effect she had on others she wouldn't be as disarming.

      Delete
  4. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel as well, as it speaks to the possibility of second chances. You can feel Anne's inner heartbreak when Captain Wentworth returns into her life, seeming so totally out of reach.

    And this movie, my favorite. I love the lead actors, but also love the side story of Frederick's sister and husband. Jane Austen giving us a rare look at a happily married couple.

    ReplyDelete