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Friday, May 4, 2018

PERSUASION (1995)

Acclaimed, but lesser-known BBC production of acclaimed, but lesser-known Jane Austen novel, released Stateside in a limited theatrical run. It looks great in any format. Rougher, less polished & posh than other Austen adaptations, and all the better for it, there’s hardly a whiff of ‘chick flick’ about it. (Though it’s a superb chick flick in a different way.) All the expected Austen boxes are ticked: a too-good-to-be-true suitor who proves . . . too-good-to-be-true; just missed personal connections; extreme class snobbery coming before a fall; upper-crust idiocy; and our divinely sensible, but taken-for-granted heroine. Here, folded into a framework right out of Cinderella: befuddled widowed father; pair of appalling sisters; overlooked runt of the litter who sparkles when given a proper setting; even something like a ball to run away from. And it works like a charm in the more naturalistic/down-to-earth settings demanded by a tight budget, guided by director Roger Michell in his debut feature, and pitch-perfect cast: Amanda Root (Austen’s empathetic alter ego), CiarĂ¡n Hinds (tall, manly, Naval Prince Charming), and a supporting cast of ghastly siblings, socially blind cousins, charming eccentrics & a few of life’s also-rans. In spite of clipped corners, still nicely plummy without being too 'culinary' (in the Brechtian sense); satisfyingly civilized (and civilizing) entertainment, equally fit for Austen acolytes & agnostics.

DOUBLE-BILL: A modern version of PERSUASION has recently been announced. Meantime, have a look at Whit Stillman’s recent, slightly cock-eyed LADY SUSAN adaptation, retitled LOVE & FRIENDSHIP for the screen. It’s terribly arch, and Kate Beckinsale doesn’t quite pull off the lead, but all in all pretty darn swell. (see below)

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