“Awful,” “awkward and lifeless,” and “a tough sell,” are just a few of the ways critics have described the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1817 novel “Persuasion.” Critics and Austen fans alike have widely panned the film, which premieres July 15 on Netflix, for diluting Austen’s language and altering the characterization of its heroine, Anne Elliot, played by Dakota Johnson. “It warms the cockles of my heart to see how Austen lovers have risen as one and condemned this monstrosity,” wrote one user in a comment on the YouTube trailer. (The film has received some positive reviews, but holds a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
What went wrong with this iteration of “Persuasion”? Nicole Aljoe, professor of English and Africana studies in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, teaches classes on Austen, including Austen in film. She says that while it’s not possible to achieve full accuracy in a film adaptation, from what she’s seen, this one does fall short of expectations.