March 6, 2003
Opinions of “Persuasion”
In 1995, the film industry began to reel out adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Among the adaptations was Sony Pictures Classics’ Persuasion. Six reviews from all over the United States acknowledged wonderful acting from a fairly unknown cast as well as great production designs, film techniques, and story background. These came out within two months of 1995 in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, USA Today, and the New York Times.
The Boston Globe and Houston Chronicle both spoke of the comic performance of Colin Redgrave (Sir Walter Elliot) as the only well-known cast member of the film besides Fiona Shaw (Mrs. Croft). The New York Times agreed with the Boston Globe’s opinion of Sophie Thompson’s performance as Mary Elliot—the snobby little sister who is overall a good person and “improbably sympathetic” (Carr). All of the reviews remark on how the entire cast did well in portraying Austen’s satirical, idiomatic, yet true-to-life characters. And all reviews agree that Amanda Root’s debut performance was glorious. Half of them made the point that Root worked to portray Anne as a strong character, resigned to her unhappy situation, but doing so with grace and without self-pity.
A film technique the director, Roger Michell, used was to keep things as natural as possible. USA Today and the New York Times mentioned how he used naturally lit interiors to have the audience feel that they “were snooping on the early nineteenth century” (Clark). To add to this effect, the women wore no make-up unless they were pompous characters and meant to look artificial. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution also stated that Michell added to this real effect by keeping the actors from “the sort of stylization customarily demanded in portrayals of life in this distant a period.”
In keeping with this real effect, Michell also went for natural settings. Amanda Root mentioned in her interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that Michell “didn’t want the picture-postcard look.” The Boston Globe talked about using the effects of a “cramped, bustling cottage” and the New York Times referred to how the characters “walk[ed] by the sea in the translucent sunlight.” The natural environment gives the feelings of what USA Today called “the genuine item.”
Each article gave some kind of a description of the storyline. All of them stated that the story was about a second chance for love. The Boston Globe and New York Times made the statement that it is an autumn story, referring to this second chance. And another common analysis of the story was that Persuasion had autobiographical references. The New York Times said Anne was Austen’s most autobiographical heroine and the Houston Chronicle said the novel itself was more autobiographical than her others.
And I Thought…?
All six reviews that I found were positive about the film. While I enjoyed the adaptation myself, I was a bit disappointed with the reviews that I found. I was hoping to find an article that would contest my views and at least give me another perspective to look at. The one article that hinted at this was simply a review from a guy on the Internet with no national acclaim. So I stuck with the six from papers read in well-known cities as well as throughout the country.
The article in the San Francisco Chronicle did not have as much as I had hoped for. It was an interview with Amanda Root. I liked the perspective it gave—from someone who was actually a part of the film. However, this perspective provided a somewhat biased opinion from an actress who was highly praised for her performance. There was not too much information about the film’s background and it was only a brief summary of the interview with Root. She may have said more things about the acting abilities or the storyline, but it was not given in the article.
USA Today’s review was not very informative because the writer was reviewing another movie besides Persuasion. In fact, it was a rather short article to begin with. So with only half of it devoted to talking about the movie I wanted to read about, I should have known that there wouldn’t be too much information. However, I liked the insight about the natural look of the film because it recognized something that I had noticed myself. But because USA Today is a prominent national paper, I was disappointed that the review did not have more.
The Houston Chronicle and Atlanta Journal and Constitution were about the same as far as their amount of insights and what they touched on. Both commented on the cast’s acting, which is always a debatable subject among audiences. Both mentioned the little things that mattered, such as gestures or looks that had secondary meanings. This topic interested me because it is something I like to do when I watch movies. So I was pleased to read reviews that talked about the subject.
I felt the two best reviews were from the Boston Globe and New York Times. Both, like the other reviews, talked about the cast and their abilities. Both talked of the storyline itself and made some analytical comments of the story and how the film portrayed certain aspects. One example of this was analyzing Anne Elliot. It was agreed that she was a strong woman with no self-pity and that the dialogue, screenplay, and Amanda Root did well in eventually getting the audience to see Anne for who she was.
The New York Times was slightly better that the Boston Globe because it also spoke about the film techniques and natural beauty. I especially liked the remark about how the camera became “the visual equivalent of Austen’s rich, commenting voice, and though it cannot be a complete replacement, it is a more than serviceable one.” This remark seemed more intellectual and interesting than the typical comments made by some reviews (e.g. “Thumbs up” and “four stars”).
I feel that if I had written a review, it would have been similar to the New York Times’ review. That review touched on topics that I would have mentioned because they weren’t simply saying, “This was a good movie.” The review also referred to background information that I have been learning in class, so I would have been able to give insights as the New York Times did. I think some of the reviews could have been more informative. But I got the feeling that the writers themselves were informed because they knew the story and Austen’s background. Their insights were much deeper and their reviews became more interesting because of the writers’ knowledge. This provided a more enjoyable review to read and one that was intellectually uplifting—or at least informative. My review might not have been written as well, but I believe it would have been as informative with well-selected points to discuss.
Carr, Jay. “‘Persuasion’ Convinces.” Boston Globe. 6 Oct. 1995. 15 Feb. 2003.
Clark, Mike. “Quality Imports in ‘Persuasion,’ ‘Month.’” USA Today. 13 Oct. 1995.
15 Feb. 2003.
James, Caryn. “Austen Tale of Lost Love Refound.” New York Times. 27 Sep. 1995.
15 Feb. 2003.
Millar, Jeff. “‘Persuasion’ is a Pure Delight.” Houston Chronicle. 13 Oct. 1995. 15
Ringel, Eleanor. “Persuasion.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution. 10 Nov. 1995. 15 Feb.
Stack, Peter. “English Actress Asked for Role in Jane Austen Film.” San Francisco
Chronicle. 11 Oct. 1995. 15 Feb. 2003.