Netflix is offering subscribers a new original movie to watch this weekend, but in a routine that is becoming grimly predictable at this point, it appears to be another dud that is already being torn apart by critics.
Persuasion is the latest Netflix original movie that appears primed to flop, at least when it comes to its critical reception, the film could yet to be a hit in terms of viewership.
At first glance, Persuasion appears to have a fair amount going for it with a frothy trailer and a well-liked star. But like so many recent Netflix movies, it seems the final product hasn’t quite come together. You may want to try something else to watch this weekend.
What is Persuasion about?
Persuasion is a romantic drama based on the classic Jane Austen novel of the same name. While the book has seen numerous television adaptations over the years, this Netflix movie is the first time it’s been turned into a feature film.
The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, a non-conforming woman with modern sensibilities. Due to her family’s financial hardships, they are forced to reduce their expenses and take the drastic step of renting out their plush home, Kellynch Hall, to an Admiral and his wife.
This leads to Captain Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) coming back into Anne’s life. The two have a complicated past as they were once engaged before Anne was persuaded by her friends and family to break it off. Now given a second chance at love, she must decide between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart.
However, the situation is further complicated when Anne draws the interest of William Elliot (Henry Golding), and a love triangle of sorts forms between the trio.
This take on the beloved Austen tale is still very much a period piece but it’s been given some modern touches. For starters, Anne frequently breaks the fourth wall to monologue directly to the audience (described as “Fleabag”-esque in one review). Plus, much of the dialogue has been tweaked to make it a little more current.
What do critics say about Persuasion?
Persuasion only hit Netflix today (Friday, July 15) but the words from critics has been far from complimentary so far. On Rotten Tomatoes the film scores a very poor 33% which would suggest this is another Netflix movie that fails to hit the mark.
Deborah Ross of The Spectator was scathing writing: “This isn’t one of those films that’s so bad it’s good. Instead, it’s so bad it’s boring. It may be the longest one hour and 49 minutes of your life.”
The New York Times’ Teo Bugbee criticized the film's attempt to be both an accurate adaptation of Austen’s original work while also trying to appeal to a modern audience: “The contrast between the modernized dialogue and Austen’s period-appropriate language only makes both styles seem more mannered.”
Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times had similar issues with the film, saying “[Persusasion] appears to have lifted sentences from the novel and fed them through some kind of Instagram-filtering, catchphrase-generating, text-summarizing idiot bot.”
But not all of its reviews have been entirely negative, Johnson’s performance has earned some praise. And Odie Henderson of The Boston Globe argued: “The solid cast cements over the more noticeable cracks in the story.” However, the general consensus appears to be that Persuasion is a bit of a misfire.
Analysis: Netflix needs to change something
Netflix is on a real quality cold streak right now when it comes to original movies. From Spiderhead to The Man from Toronto, Senior Year to The Bubble, Interceptor to 365 Days: This Day, the list of duds seems to be growing every single week.
While the constant stream of disappointing new releases has led to some older flicks in the service’s library getting some well-deserved time in the spotlight — we’ll take any excuse to rewatch Mean Girls or Wanted — Netflix could really do with a bonafide hit, and soon.
The streamer’s next big tentpole release, The Gray Man, is just around the corner. The globe-trotting action movie stars Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling and is scheduled to release on July 22. Unfortunately, the early whispers are this film is set to be another disappointment, which could be the breaking point for some subscribers.
2022 has been a fairly bruising year all round for Netflix with the service posting its first-ever drop in subscribers quarter-over-quarter, and it's also faced regular criticism about the perceived decline in quality of its original content. Another underwhelming movie in the form of Persuasion isn’t going to help that perception.
While shows like Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy continue to strike gold, there is an argument to be made that outside of its megahits Netflix is floundering. If Netflix wants to continue to rank on our list of the best streaming services then we need to start seeing more constant quality when it comes to original content, otherwise, its rivals could overtake it.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.