2007 Persuasion: What’s this Gothic doing in my Austen?

th.jpgSeriously though, who thought gothic melodrama was the missing piece of a Jane Austen novel? From the romantic hero to the tragic heroine forced into servitude, with the massive wide shots, the pale faces and the dark colors, this movie screams “Gothic melodrama.”

And by melodrama I mean melodrama. The great moments, rather than being earned and interspersed in the story with the care of Jane Austen’s gentle touch, are chopped into pieces and tucked into ridiculously unsubtle moments of histrionic. Instead of being attacked by a spoiled child (and the spoiled children are almost totally absent), Anne takes a terrible fall and limps around for the next few scenes. Instead of Wentworth slowly loosing his composure at the musical performance, he storms out (opening both double doors on his way, of course).

25597577Oh, and the conclusion of the book that being sensible to persuasion is something that a prudent person must deal with, while being proud and stubborn costs happiness rather than ensuring it? Yeah, who needs it. Just turn Lady Russell into a villain and drop “persuaded” into the scene before the incredibly awkward kiss. Like, incredibly awkward kiss. My God, that man is over 6 foot and she’s a tiny little thing–what’s she doing, standing on her big toes like a ballet dancer?

Worst of all, the warm heart of the book which perfectly complements the romance is missing. In the novel, Anne has not only lost Captain Wentworth–she has lost the life she would have had with him. She would have been happy and valued. She would have lived among people who are kind and affectionate. She had a future in store for her like that of the Admiral and Mrs Croft. But the Admiral and Mrs Croft are pure plot devices in this movie–their lovely, devoted relationship is gone.

One more complaint: what kind of Austen adaptation doesn’t have a laugh until the last few minutes? Austen balanced her portrayals of selfishness–which sometimes verged on the cruel–with kindness and comedy. It was a delicate mix that she had mastered as no one before or since has managed. But, in the interests of the gothic, melodramatic tone, this movie slaughters 98% of the comedy so that we can get the camera shoved up in pale faces instead. Jane Austen novels are many wonderful things, and one constant in them is a spirit of fun. This movie is the least fun thing I’ve watched since a movie ended with dead children.


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