Making movies is a tricky business, and despite its clever algorithmic help, Netflix hasn’t got the art down to a science. For every Roma or Bird Box, there’s a Father of the Year, and unfortunately Netflix’s latest movie is closer to the latter — at least according to Rotten Tomatoes’ critical crowdsourcing.
Persuasion — a modernization of Jane Austen’s final, posthumous novel — is taking a critical beating with a score of just 33%Rotten Tomatoes from 18 reviews. And while reimagining Austen’s work for modern audiences has worked in the past (Bridget Jones’s Diary grossed $282 million and justified two sequels, after all), the consensus here is that this retelling of Persuasion just doesn’t work.
“The more honest title might be Bridgerbag, such is the influence of two recent cultural landmarks,” writes Danny Leign in the Financial Times’ two-star review. “The satin sheen of another Netflix hit, Bridgerton, is all over the look of the film — the air of millennial hot mess comes not-quite-fresh from Fleabag.”
He’s not the only one to spot the fourth-wall breaking influence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s groundbreaking comedy. The “conspicuous camera chats” from protagonist Anne (Dakota Johnson) are “relentless” and it “wears out any dramatic utility long before the end of the first act,” writes The Times’ Kevin Maher in another two-star review. Johnson — “savagely miscast” — is always ready for a “wearisome, needlessly rote, on-camera quip,” he adds.
A common thread of the reviews is that this is a film that is needlessly dumbed down. “It tries so hard to be relatable to a modern audience without ever considering that there’s a reason that Jane Austen’s novels have been popular ever since they first appeared in print,” writes Nicole Ackman at Awards Watch. “It almost feels insulting to its audience to assume that without modern lingo and images of a woman crying into her pillow, we can’t understand heartbreak and regret.”
Entertainment Weekly agrees. “This Persuasion chooses to wear its source material like a thin disposable skin, discarding many of the vital organs (brain, heart) and most of the subtlety as it goes,” Leah Greenblatt writes.
The reviewers that seem to get anything from it are generally those who are prepared to leave the source material at the door. But even then, generally the praise is faint. “In short, Austen fans will find this a dismal and infuriating adaptation, viewers looking for a pleasant third-tier rom-com with an unchallenging modern sensibility in period dress might be entertained for the 110-minute run time,” concludes Noah Berlatsky at Wealth of Geeks.
But really, there’s no shortage of great content on the service, so why bother? Here are the best movies on Netflix, if you’re in need of inspiration.
In other Netflix news, the streamer has reportedly canceled a big Vince McMahon documentary.
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