Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Persuasion (2007)

Persuasion is a beautiful book and is one of my favourite Jane Austen novels. ITV's adaptation of Northanger Abbey is excellent and their version of Mansfield Park is decent. So what's ITV's adaptation of Persuasion like then? Atrocious! I hated the script, I hated the acting, I hated almost everything about it! It's by far the worst of the ITV Jane Austen adaptations of 2007! Yes it's got some nice music in places and a couple of the supporting actors are good. And yes some of it was actually shot on location in Bath. But apart from these few positive aspects aside this adaptation is awful!

There's so much that's wrong with this version that I'm not even sure where to begin. The pacing feels very rushed and many great scenes from the book are left out or ruined. Things are changed around for no good reason too. As an example Anne's friend Mrs Smith is called Harriet Smith in this! What?! Was this supposed to be an amusing in-joke?! Well, I certainly didn't find it funny and Mrs Smith's backstory with Mr Elliot was completely cut as well.

The tone of this version is also much too serious and there's no humour whatsoever. That's just wrong.
Persuasion might be one of Austen's more serious works but there are still funny moments in it. The look of this adaptation is too dark and dreary-looking. Apart from a couple of exceptions the cast are all really poor in this version as well. I don't know if it's because of the script or if it's because of the direction they received or if it's simply because the majority of the actors were badly miscast but most of the performances leave much to be desired.

I was so unhappy with Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot. Hawkins can clearly act but the way Hawkins interprets Anne is completely wrong. She whispers most of her lines and she plays Anne as being a pathetic wimp who's always crying over Wentworth and looking miserable. Anne is never that depressed in the book! Yes, she certainly feels sad and lonely at times but she's also warm, conversational and witty. All of the other characters who have any sense in the book love her. And why is Anne so unattractive in this version?! I've seen pictures of Sally Hawkins in real life where she looks really pretty so why did they make her look so plain in this?! Why did they give her such greasy, messed-up hair and dowdy, ugly costumes! Anne isn't supposed to be unattractive! At first I assumed that they were going to make her up to look prettier and prettier as it went on to show how Anne regains her bloom and health but no, they don't. Anne finally washes her hair at the end but by then it's too little too late. Anne is so unattractive, boring and insipid in this version that I have no idea how Wentworth could fall in love with her -  and still be in love with her - after eight years!

Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth is just as bad. He does absolutely nothing apart from brood and shows no charm or charisma. He just comes across as incredibly boring and bland. Why are Anne and the Musgrove sisters so crazy about him?! Also, Penry-Jones' skin is so pale and unblemished that I really couldn't buy him as a sailor who's fought in the Napoleonic Wars for the last eight years!

Most of the supporting cast are really poor in this version too. The worst culprit is Amanda Hale who is just sooo bad as Mary Musgrove! I know Mary is supposed to be a hypochondriac but Hale plays Mary as being mentally unhinged and her line delivery is horrible. In fact there's only a couple of performances that I genuinely liked in this adaptation. I thought Alice Krige as Lady Russell was pretty good and it's a shame that she doesn't get much screentime. I love Anthony Stewart Head and I thought he did a great job as Sir Walter Elliot. I still prefer Corin Redgrave's more humorous performance in the 1995 version but Stewart Head is great too and the only actor who looks like he's having any sort of fun in this thing.

The Most Stupid Scenes in Persuasion!
Because I still don't think I've conveyed just how appalling this adaptation really is I've decided to give a run-down of its most stupid scenes in the order they appear - the scenes that had me sighing or facepalming.
  • This version of Persuasion begins with Anne rushing around Kellynch whilst the servants are packing up. She seems to be taking an inventory but she doesn't seem to be writing anything down. She just makes random scratches every now and again. Anne then runs out of ink but there just so happens to be a servant standing in the hallway with some ink for Anne to take a refill. What?! Was this servant just told to stand there all day and wait for Anne to take her refills?
  • When Charles Musgrove Jr dislocates his collar bone, Anne then rushes to help despite being in the middle of getting dressed for a party. She doesn't seem to be even the slightest bit embarrassed to be standing in her underwear in front of her nephew and brother-in-law and they don't seem to be embarrassed about it either! Anne then sets Charles' collarbone back into place. What?! I know Anne is a very competent and capable woman but since when has Anne had medical training?! And why couldn't she have put some clothes on?!
  • When Wentworth asks Louisa Musgrove when her brother Charles proposed to Anne, Louisa's response is "I do not exactly know, but before he married Mary". Well, duh Louisa! 
  • In the book there's a scene where some of the characters go out walking and Wentworth realises that Anne is tired. He asks the Crofts to give her a ride home, and then gallantly picks Anne up and helps her into their carriage. It's a really touching scene and it's when Anne begins to think that perhaps Wentworth does still care for her at least a little bit after all. Is it a touching and romantic scene in this version? Ha! Wentworth doesn't ask the Crofts to take her in the carriage, they ask him. And Wentworth doesn't gently pick Anne up and put her down. He handles her about as tenderly as you would with a shopping bag! This scene isn't even the slightest bit romantic! It's just really awkward.
  • In the book Anne has a conversation with Wentworth's friend Harville in Bath. They talk about love and the constancy of women. Wentworth overhears this conversation and is really moved by it. He writes his famous love letter to Anne and the two are reconciled. This scene happens towards the end of the novel. This is completely ruined in this version! Anne's conversation is with Mr Benwick in Lyme Regis instead and Wentworth is well out of earshot. There's absolutely no way he could have overheard this conversation! Why would you change this?! Why, why, why?!
  • Louisa Musgrove's fall in Lyme Regis is completely wrong. You don't even see her fall and the panic that everyone apart from Anne is supposed to be feeling is completely gone. In this version nobody panics or cries. They're all calm! This scene is supposed to show how Anne can keep a level head in a crisis but since no-one panics this scene is completely unnecessary. After this scene the characters seem only mildly upset about what's just happened.
  • The waters in Bath really do have healing powers because Mrs Smith makes a miraculous recovery in this and arrives just in time to tell Anne about Mr Elliot's plans. In this he'd planned to marry Anne and make Mrs Clay his mistress afterwards.
  • And now I've come to the most hated and ridiculed scene in this entire adaptation - the Bath Marathon. They completely ruined the ending of the book! Firstly Wentworth comes over to Anne's house and she tells him that she isn't engaged to Mr Elliot. He then leaves the house. Anne is then briefly interrupted by Henrietta Musgrove and her mother. Wentworth is then nowhere in sight when Anne leaves the house despite him leaving only 8 seconds before! Yes, I did time it! Anne then decides that the logical thing to do is to RUN, yes, RUN all over the city like a headless chicken to find Wentworth. She then bumps into Mrs Smith (see above). Anne then runs over to where Wentworth is staying. Wentworth is no longer there but he still found the time to write his letter and entrust it to Harville. Anne then reads the letter, whilst running, to find the Crofts because Wentworth left with them. But when Anne finally finds the Crofts they say he's gone back to her house! When Anne finally finds Wentworth he's standing outside her house and is casually chatting away with Charles Musgrove. WHAT?! All of this is just so, so, so wrong! It's completely out-of-character and inappropriate for Anne to be running all over the city! No respectable woman in Austen's time would have done this! And how did Wentworth have the time to go home, write a letter, go out with the Crofts, and make it back to Anne's house without even breaking into a sweat whilst Anne is running for her life?! Is that Wentworth's super-power?! And then, just when you'd think things couldn't get any worse, Anne and Wentworth come to an understanding and kiss. But it's not remotely romantic. It's disgusting! Anne is sweaty from her run and is surely in dire need of a shower and a drink. And the kiss is ridiculously drawn-out! They hover around each mouth's for a whopping 24 seconds! Yes, I timed that as well! This scene alone is an abomination! 
  • And now I've finally come to the ending. Anne finally gets a better hairdo in this scene so you might think I'd like it but no. In this version Wentworth actually buys Kellynch as a wedding present for Anne! WHAT?! Kellynch is entailed away to Mr Elliot! 
This adaptation is absolutely dreadful and I don't understand how anyone could prefer it over the 1995 version. In that version there's far more chemistry between the leading actors, the acting is better all-round, the cinematography is much nicer, the pacing is much better, and it's much more faithful to the book. Instead of watching this adaptation watch that instead, or better yet read the book if you haven't already. This version is a trainwreck and I'm sure Jane Austen must be spinning in her grave.

Rating: 1/5
Film Certificate Rating: PG


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insights!!! I completely agree with you! The 2007 version is unwatchable for all the reasons you highlighted. I often wonder how anyone can remotely enjoy this movie. Rupert PJ is one of the most 2-dimensional actors of his day and rarely, if ever, has onscreen chemistry with anyone but himself. Sally Hawkins interpretation of Anne was a travesty.

I adore the 1995 film (apart from a cringe-worthy Elizabeth and Mrs. Smith....I fast forward through those bits now) and still enjoy watching it again and again.

Thank you for your refreshing point of view.
It made my day to read it!

Indigo Montoya said...

"It made my day to read it". Aw, I'm glad you liked my rant so much Refreshed! I'm really glad that you've said you're not a Rupert PJ fan. I thought he was really wooden in 'Casanova' and he wasn't any better in 'Persuasion'. Why are some women out there so crazy about him?! He's hardly a great actor and he's not even that good-looking.

I really love the 1995 film. It's not perfect. Like you I'm not a fan of the Elizabeth and Mrs Smith of that version and they changed Mr Elliot's backstory around as well. However everything else about it is just so, so, so good that you can't complain. It's a wonderful adaptation. I should be reviewing it in the next few months.

Marisa said...

I just have to say - when I saw this version the first time - back in 2007 - I felt almost exactly as you did. I didn't care for it at all and didn't care for Sally Hawkins at the time. But watching it again just now - I absolutely LOVED it. I couldn't exactly tell you what has changed for me. Maybe my mood - maybe experiences that have happened to me in the interceding 6 years. But this film really struck a chord with me this time round. Although I do agree the ending was entirely botched - the Bath Marathon as you call it (hahahaha) was truly irritating!! But I loved Sally Hawkins and thought her expressions and the looks in her eyes were utterly heartbreaking. I think I can relate so much more to what she's gone through now. In any case - I encourage you to rewatch this again in 6 years! lol Those years may completely alter your feelings!

Indigo Montoya said...

Alright then Marisa, I promise you that I'll rewatch this version in 2019 : ) I really don't think that I'll EVER change my mind about this adaptation but you never know...

Marisa said...

Haha - put it on your calendar! And just saying - but I *really* disliked it too. In fact I didn't really even want to watch it again, but some friends and I are doing a "Jane Austen Film Club" and it was our first pick. I was beyond pleasantly surprised - based on my recollections of this film!

Marisa said...

Oh my gosh!! Just saw you are an INFJ - The universe seems to magnetically pull me to you crazy people!! Most of my closest friends and favorite people are INFJs - so weird. I can't get away from you! hahaha

Marisa said...

I should clarify - I have oodles of INFJs and also INFPs in my life - many people I love are one of the other. And I don't even entirely understand what the difference is between these two types. But I know neither type is very common - so I find this interesting :)

Indigo Montoya said...

Yeah, that is really interesting! I'm still learning about personality types and psychology I'm afraid so I can't really give you any information on INFJ/INFP differences. I just took one or two tests and I came up as an INFJ. The personality profiles fit me pretty well I think. Most of my friends are extroverts so I've always known that I was quite different to them to some degree, I just didn't know HOW different I was!

It's awesome that you're doing a Jane Austen Film Club! You have really cool friends : ) Are you planning on watching all of the adaptations or just one per book? I ask because with some JA books like Emma there's more than one good adaptation.

Marisa said...

In case you didn't know - INFJ is considered to be the rarest type!! Which is why I find it so peculiar that I continue to bump into you :) I am borderline ESFJ/ENFJ in case you were wondering.

I think we will likely watch many adaptations! We've just started with this version of Persuasion and will likely do 1995 next. There are multiple possibilities really - so many adaptations out there! You are welcome to join our little club if you like!! It is on fb and should be loads of fun!! And there is at least one awesome INFJ there for you to meet! ha! Let me know if you want to join - we are a very open little group!

Indigo Montoya said...

Hi, sorry this reply's a little late. Yes, I do know that INFJs are supposed to be really rare. I very recently found that out that one of my best friends is an INFJ though which made me really happy. I've always thought that she was the friend who had the most similar personality to me so it makes sense.

What's your group called? I'm always up for Jane Austen discussions : )

Marisa said...

That is so wild about your friend also being an INJF! Two rare birds together! My best friend is also an INFJ. And I really hope you will join our little group - would be delighted to have you! We have lots of fun! Here is the link for our group There is a join group button near the top and then I will approve your request. Hope to see you over there!

Hamlette said...

Wow. Thanks for convincing me not to waste time watching this!

Have you seen the version with Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth? Although it had a few issues, such as making the backstory between Wentworth and Anne completley unclear, I found it pleasing overall.

Indigo Montoya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indigo Montoya said...

I removed my own comment because I realised that I made a stupid typo! Anyway, I have seen the 1995 version and I really enjoyed it. It's been quite a few years since I last saw it though so I'm planning to give it a re-watch soon.

Hamlette said...

Lol! Well, I have your comment in my email, so I'm going to respond to it a bit anyway. I don't really remember Elizabeth Elliot at all, I must admit. And the reason I really noticed that the backstory was lacking was that I was watching it with my mom, who hadn't read the book (I've since remedied that), and she was just so confused as to why Anne didn't want to meet up with Wentworth and why she kept acting odd around him. I had to stop the movie and explain, which yeah... not good storytelling from the filmmakers, methinks.

Sarah said...

Thanks for linking me here, I really enjoyed the read! Even though I was able to enjoy the movie pretty well in spite of the problems, I can definitely appreciate why you dislike it so much. All the specific instances you mentioned have bothered me at least a little too. Especially the first, third, fifth, eighth (that's my favorite -- er, least favorite) and ninth. That one's almost funny.

Hamlette said...

So I decided to watch this version afterall. While I was underwhelmed by much of it, I didn't dislike it nearly as much as you did!

I really quite liked Sally Hawkins, though I actually thought she was a bit too cheerful at times! I don't think Anne should be depressed, but I think she is not given to quite so much ready smiling. I thought she was quite pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so okay, whatever. I quite liked her hair and was trying to figure out if I could get mine to behave half so well.

I'll agree with your criticisms of Penry-Jones, though. Too pretty, too languid. I love broody guys, but he didn't so much brood as mope. Moping is so unattractive and should be outlawed. And I couldn't see him on the deck of a ship at all.

But I thought Mary was hilarious, though she did try to scene-steal overmuch. But this Lady Russell was too snotty -- in fact, I thought the same of the 1995 version's Lady Russell too. I don't see her as snotty, just misguided.

And yes, Anthony Stewart Head was wondrous. I will admit I was mostly watching this version for him, and there I was not at all disappointed. Go, Tony!

I thought at the beginning she was crossing off things on a check-list. Running out of ink seems to be a continuing theme in this one, as I remember it happened when she was writing up her diary as well, later on in Bath. So perhaps it's a perpetual problem for her, and the servants always keep some handy?

I was definitely annoyed the moving of the discussion of love and constancy. It was like the writers thought, "Oh, I think this is important, but I'm not quite sure why, so I'll just stick it somewhere else."

The running, though -- absurd. Felt like a desperate writer they'd botched things up but weren't up to actually putting them the way they should be, so they thought up an "exciting ending."

Was it really only 24 seconds before they finally kissed? It felt more like 45.

So overall, I much prefer the 1995 version, though I'd like to mash both of them together and make a Really Great Version instead :-)

Hannah said...

Hehe! I think a lot of JA fans seem to like this version actually but I really can't feel the same. Sally Hawkins simply isn't Anne to me but if she fits your own interpretation of the character better then I guess I can't really argue with you on that one. I'm glad we can both agree on RPJ though. There is NO WAY that he could pass as a sailor and he's just so dull! And unlike a lot of women I don't find him attractive. I mean I don't find Ciaran Hinds very attractive either but I still love him in the role because of well he played Wentworth. I'm not shallow.

Anthony Stewart Head is always wonderful :) He's easily my favourite thing about this version even though he's underused.

Oh, they absolutely RUINED the ending of the book! Moving the discussion of love and constancy and then tacking on a STUPID running scene. Argh! When I watched it I had no idea whether I should be laughing or crying.

I can see you've made a full review of the 2007 version. I'll have to comment on it when I get the chance :)

Hamlette said...

This version is very pretty, so I can see how it would be popular. And if I hadn't read the book, I might have liked it better, to be honest. Except for the camerawork and music :-b

I think Ciaran Hinds is quite attractive when he's acting -- he's so compelling and intense! But still photographs never do him justice.