There's so much that's wrong with this version that I'm not even sure where to begin. Well, I never got the sense that this version had been made by people who loved and understood the story. The pacing feels very rushed and many great scenes from the book are left out or ruined. Things are changed around for no good reason too. As an example Anne's friend Mrs Smith is called Harriet Smith in this! What?! Was this supposed to be an amusing in-joke?! Well, I certainly didn't find it funny and Mrs Smith's backstory with Mr Elliot was completely cut as well. This is just the tip of the iceberg by the way! There's a lot more stupidity in this adaptation!
The tone of this version is also much too serious and there's no humour whatsoever. That's just wrong. Persuasion might be one of Austen's more serious works but there are still funny moments in it. The look of this adaptation is wrong. It's very dark and dreary-looking. Apart from a couple of exceptions the cast are all really poor in this version as well. I don't know if it's because of the direction they received or simply because the majority of the actors were badly miscast but the performances leave much to be desired.
Most of the supporting cast are really poor in this version too. The worst culprit is Amanda Hale who is just sooo bad as Mary Musgrove! I know Mary is supposed to be a hypochondriac but Hale plays Mary as being mentally unhinged and her line delivery is also horrible. It felt like she was (badly) imitating Sophie Thompson from the 1995 adaptation. In fact there's only a couple of performances that I genuinely liked in this adaptation. I thought Alice Krige as Lady Russell was pretty good and it's a shame that she doesn't get much screentime. I love Anthony Stewart Head and I thought he did a great job as Sir Walter Elliot. I still prefer Corin Redgrave's more humorous performance in the 1995 version but Stewart Head is great too and the only actor who looks like he's having any sort of fun in this thing.
The Most Stupid Scenes in Persuasion!
Because I still don't think I've conveyed just how appalling this adaptation really is I've decided to give a run-down of its most stupid scenes in the order they appear - the scenes that had me sighing or shouting "Oh, for goodness' sake!"
- This version of Persuasion begins with Anne rushing around Kellynch whilst the servants are packing up. She seems to be taking an inventory but she doesn't seem to be writing anything down. She just makes random scratches every now and again. Anne then runs out of ink but there just so happens to be a servant standing in the hallway with some ink for Anne to take a refill. What?! Was this servant just told to stand there all day for Anne to take refills?
- When Charles Musgrove Jr dislocates his collar bone, Anne then rushes to help despite being in the middle of getting changed for a party. She doesn't seem to be even the slightest bit embarrassed to be standing in her underwear in front of her nephew and brother-in-law and they don't seem to be embarrassed about it either! Anne then sets Charles' collarbone back into place. What?! Since when has Anne had medical training?! Why couldn't they wait for the apothecary to get there?! And why couldn't Anne have put some clothes on?!
- When Wentworth asks Louisa Musgrove when her brother Charles proposed to Anne, Louisa's response is "I do not exactly know, but before he married Mary". Well, duh Louisa! I'm sure that Wentworth wasn't thinking that Charles had tried to commit bigamy by proposing after he'd married Mary!
- In the book there's a scene where some of the characters go out walking and Wentworth realises that Anne is tired. He asks the Crofts to give her a ride home, and then gallantly picks Anne up and helps her into their carriage. It's a really touching scene and it's when Anne begins to think that perhaps Wentworth does still care for her at least a little bit after all. Is it a touching and romantic scene in this version? Ha! Wentworth doesn't ask the Crofts to take her in the carriage, they ask him. And Wentworth doesn't gently pick Anne up and put her down. No! He handles her like she's a sack of potatoes! Both of the actors look uncomfortable and this scene isn't even the slightest bit romantic! It's just really awkward.
- In the book Anne has a conversation with Wentworth's friend Harville in Bath. They talk about love and the constancy of women. Wentworth overhears this conversation and is really moved by it. He writes his famous love letter to Anne and the two are reconciled. This scene happens towards the end of the novel. This is completely ruined in this version! Anne's conversation is with Mr Benwick in Lyme Regis instead and Wentworth is well out of earshot. There's absolutely no way he could have overheard this conversation! Why would you change this?! Why, why, why?!
- Louisa Musgrove's fall in Lyme Regis is completely wrong. You don't even see her fall and the panic that everyone apart from Anne is supposed to be feeling is completely gone. In this version nobody panics or cries or gets into hysterics. They're all calm! This scene is supposed to show Anne can keep a level head in a crisis but since no-one panics this scene is completely unnecessary! After this scene the characters seem only mildly upset about what's just happened.
- The waters in Bath really do have healing powers! Mrs Smith makes a miraculous recovery in this and arrives just in time to tell Anne about the devious Mr Elliot's plans. In this he'd planned to marry Anne and make Mrs Clay his mistress afterwards! Anne doesn't even seem shocked to see Mrs Smith walking so well either!
- And now I've come to the most hated and ridiculed scene in this entire adaptation - the Bath Marathon. They completely ruined the ending of the book! Firstly Wentworth comes over to Anne's house and she tells him that she isn't engaged to Mr Elliot. He then leaves the house. Anne is then briefly interrupted by Henrietta Musgrove and her mother. Wentworth is then nowhere in sight when Anne leaves the house despite him leaving only 8 seconds before! Yes, I did time it! Anne then decides that the logical thing to do is to RUN, yes, RUN all over the city like a headless chicken to find Wentworth. She then bumps into Mrs Smith (see above). Anne then runs over to where Wentworth is staying. Wentworth is no longer there but he still found the time to write his letter and entrust it to Harville. Anne then reads the letter, whilst running, to find the Crofts because Wentworth left with them. But when Anne finally finds the Crofts they say he's gone back to her house! When Anne finally finds Wentworth he's standing outside her house and is casually chatting away with Charles Musgrove. WHAT?! All of this is just so, so, so wrong! It's completely out-of-character and inappropriate for Anne to be running all over the city! No respectable woman in Austen's time would have done this! And how did Wentworth have the time to go home, write a letter, go out with the Crofts, and make it back to Anne's house without even breaking into a sweat whilst Anne is running for her life?! Is that Wentworth's super-power, super-human speed?! And then, just when you'd think things couldn't get any worse, Anne and Wentworth come to an understanding and kiss. But it's not remotely romantic. It's disgusting! Anne is sweaty from her run and is surely in dire need of a shower and a glass of water. And the kiss is ridiculously drawn-out! They hover around each mouth's for a whopping 24 seconds! Yes, I timed that as well! This scene alone is an abomination!
- And now I've finally come to the ending. Anne finally gets a better hairdo in this scene so you might think I'd like it but no. In this version Wentworth actually buys Kellynch as a wedding present for Anne! WHAT?! Kellynch is entailed away to Mr Elliot!
This adaptation is absolutely dreadful and I don't understand how anyone could prefer it over the 1995 version. In that version there's far more chemistry between the leading actors, the acting is better all-round, the cinematography is much nicer, the pacing is much better, and it's much more faithful to the book. Instead of watching this adaptation watch that instead, or better yet read the book if you haven't already. This version is a trainwreck and I'm grateful that I watched it on YouTube and didn't actually buy the DVD. This - and 1999's Mansfield Park - are easily the worst Austen adaptations I've ever seen and Jane Austen must be turning in her grave.