Instead of being honest, the Jane Austen adaption might have been more provocative.
1995 will always be the year with the most Jane Austen movie adaptations. In that same year, the BBC aired Andrew Davies' Pride and Prejudice, a flawless six-episode adaptation of Jane Austen's novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle that is still regarded as one of the greatest miniseries in the network's history.
In the same year, Amy Heckerling's Clueless, a loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma that set its action among the privileged kids of Beverly Hills, was also released.
These continue to be, in my opinion, the two extremes of what can be done with Jane Austen's vivid body of work: a literal adaptation that directly borrows from the author's astute language and rich characterisation, and an edgy, contemporary masterwork that catches her comic spirit.
Both tactics are attempted simultaneously in Carrie Cracknell's Persuasion, which makes its Netflix premiere today. The outcomes are utterly weird.
It is a period-appropriate costume play set in early 19th-century England, and it is simple enough to look at.
It is brimming with elegant dresses, dapper military garb, and the like.
The movie shares the same fundamental premise as Austen's novel, which was released in 1817 and was her final finished work, but it also contains self-aware flourishes that have led to comparisons to contemporary British comedies like Fleabag.
As Jane Austen's most reclusive and inwardly focused heroine, Anne Elliot (played by Dakota Johnson), she spends a lot of the movie conversing to the camera, even offering caustic looks and eye rolls in the middle of the action.
Yes, breaching the fourth wall may work, as Phoebe Waller-Bridge so skillfully showed in Fleabag, but it feels incredibly cheesy in this instance.
Persuasion sasses the narrative for the benefit of the audience, lest we get tired of the formulaic rhythms of the vintage rom-com, as if it didn't have enough trust in its own storyline.