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You have to love the British. And Masterpiece Theater (now just called ‘Masterpiece’).
Masterpiece is devoting half a year to film adaptations of all six Austen novels and one biopic of Jane in her older days, “Miss Austen Regrets.” Starting this past Sunday, The Complete Jane Austen kicked off the season with “Persuasion”, even though it was the last complete novel Austen wrote before she passed away at age 41.

If you loved the book, you would be surprised at how many plotlines were condensed or changed around in the movie. The famous lines about women’s constant heart, spoken by Anne Elliot towards the end of the novel right before Captain Wentworth’s letter proposal, are strangely shifted towards the middle of the movie and almost lost during a dinner scene. Other scenes cut quickly between Kellynch Hall, the Musgroves, Bath, and Lyme, with barely enough time to absorb all the surroundings and the characters inhabiting them. Since “Persuasion” was also Austen’s shortest novel, it makes sense the movie was condensed to an hour and a half, but certain scenes (the walk to Charles Hayter’s house) and characters (such as Harville, Henrietta, Mrs. Smith) would have benefited from being fleshed out.
As Anne Elliot, actress Sally Hawkins perfectly embodies the shy, sweet-tempered, and gentle middle daughter of a haughty family. Her distress and longing for her former suitor, Captain Wentworth, revealed during private moments of journal writing by candlelight, really convey the trouble with feeling too much while being held in check by society’s expectations for demure decorum. And, if you’re a fan of Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy, you will also be drawn to Rupert Penry-Jones’s portrayal of the intially cold, stoic, and grudging Captain who eventually softens to discover Anne’s quiet, moral (but not weak) virtues.
In fact, if you are a fan of the 1995 version of “Pride and Prejudice” (one of two Austen movies shown this year that isn’t being remade; the other is the Kate Beckinsale version of “Emma“), you will notice great similarities between that film version and this film version of “Persuasion.” Despite different directors, the look and feel are almost the same, especially during scenes with suppressed passionate gazing. At times, you almost feel like you’re watching a very, very condensed version of “Pride and Prejudice,” except with older and more tempered characters.
Yes, the first Masterpiece line-up may leave you a little unsatisfied, wishing for more–but, thankfully, there is “Northanger Abbey” to look forward to next Sunday and more moral lessons from Austen to absorb on screen.
Despite the movie’s jarring and silly imperfections (Anne Elliot’s constant Amelie-esque gazing into the camera, the too drawn-out kiss at the end), the first of many Austen movies is still well done and populated by convincing actors properly depicting good and villainous characters.
Most importantly, the film conveys the lesson of being cautious and guarding the heart, being humble and letting the sun set on one’s anger and pride. At the same time, the film also conveys the lesson of openning the heart when it should be opened, knowing when to follow it and trust someone. Plus, through Anne Elliot we learn that it is strong, authentic, morally-centered women who are rewarded with happiness versus women who grasp at money, title, and marriage. There is hope in Austen’s novels, and this hope is never forgotten.
>> Saw the movie and want to discuss it? Join our All About Austen group and meet other Austen-ites.

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