Dakota Johnson leads the makeover of Jane Austen – The Hollywood Reporter

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Dakota Johnson leads the makeover of Jane Austen - The Hollywood Reporter

Jane Austen purists will be stunned, but if you choose Carrie Cracknell’s playful re-imagining of the author’s thoughtful final self-contained novel into a lively Regency rom-com, you might be pleasantly surprised. Freely mixing language borrowed from Austen’s prose with decidedly modern words and settings – this is a film in which someone in a pre-electric age is described as “electrifying” – conviction is brave enough and consistent with his apparent liberties to get away with it. It also helps that the novel’s ailing protagonist, Anne Elliot, was given an irrepressible spirit and an irreverent sense of irony in Dakota Johnson’s fiery portrayal.

It’s easy to argue that Austen’s darkest, most mature novel should never be treated like this Emma, but Johnson, in her lightest role yet, makes us complicit in Anne’s wry interpretation of early 19th-century mores. That’s especially true of her deadpan self-awareness as a free-thinking young woman who’s an outsider in her class-conscious, financially strapped family, let alone one who’s still seething with regret over a spurned love and is now approaching an age that does she is almost unmarried by the standards of the day. Never mind that the glowing Johnson will be nobody’s idea of ​​a spinster outshone by her narcissistic sisters.

conviction

The final result

Bridget Jones meets Bridgerton.

release date: Friday 15 July
Pour: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Richard E. Grant, Henry Golding, Ben Bailey-Smith, Yolanda Kettle, Nia Towle
director: Carrie Cracknell
screenwriters: Alice Victoria Winslow, Ron Bass; based on the novel by Jane Austen

Rated PG-13, 1 hour 47 minutes

Assertiveness and a big obvious wink for millennial audiences are written in the nimble script from newcomer Alice Victoria Winslow and veteran Ron Bass, who trade Austen’s subtle conclusions, her carefully crafted forebodings and teasing expectations for a blunt frankness that of the oppression of the times defies . The historical trappings may remain in place, but the prism through which the story is told is very much that of a modern woman in a multiracial society, and you’ll either agree with that or not.

Still miserable years after being “persuaded” to abandon Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), the handsome unranked sailor who wanted to marry her when she was 19, the heroine drinks wine from a bottle and sobs in a bathtub, longingly pets her pet bunny while insisting she “blooms”. She is Bridget Jones in a Regency dress. Anne interrupts the film by breaking the fourth wall with quirky on-camera commentary and silent double-takes straight from the film fleasack. The immediacy this brings to the character will likely endear the Netflix feature to young viewers who don’t care the least bit about staying true to Austen’s novel.

In its own lively way, this is as radical a riff on an Austen classic as is fire islandAndrew Ahn’s queer spin on pride and prejudice, showing that there is still plenty of life for inventive film adaptations of one of English literature’s most popular sources of adaptation. It couldn’t be any different from the most famous – and still the best – screen version of convictionRoger Michell’s 1995 British TV film (theatrically released in the US), starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, which was far more melancholic and reflective in tone, in keeping with the novel.

The circumstances that bring Anne and Frederick back at odds eight lonely years after their separation stem from the Elliot family’s reluctant need to tighten their belts.

With debt collectors constantly at the door, Anne’s vain peacock father Sir Walter Elliot (a hilariously dapper Richard E. Grant) and selfish older sister Elizabeth (Yolanda Kettle) are forced to rent out the stately Somerset family mansion, Kellynch Hall, and Downgraded to Bath resident. Elizabeth’s friend Mrs Clay (Lydia Rose Bewley) puts it on the bright side, churning out one of several lines that will make the heads of the anachronism police pop: “They often say if you’re a five in London, you will.” you be a ten in Bath.”

Anne is forced to stay behind to keep her married younger sister, Mary Musgrove (Mia McKenna-Bruce) company, a monstrously self-staging hypochondriac whose FOMO kicks in whenever anyone suspects her ailing condition will bar her from an outing.

The new tenants at Kellynch Hall are Wentworth’s older sister and her husband, meaning Anne’s former suitor will be a frequent visitor. The sailor rose to the rank of captain during the Napoleonic Wars and became a wealthy man in the process. But he remains without a wife.

The barriers Austen erected to delay the inevitable union of these predestined lovebirds have been significantly streamlined, largely because the characters are less circumspect, less constrained by social restraint, and able to speak more freely at every encounter. But both Anne and Frederick are still reluctant to admit they never got over each other. “Now we’re worse than strangers, we’re ex-boyfriends,” moans Anne, in a line that admittedly made me both laugh and flinch.

There’s also the obstacle of Mary’s fugitive sister-in-law, Louisa (Nia Towle), who starts out as a matchmaker but ends up after Wentworth herself (“He’s everything!”). Then there’s Anne’s dashing but shady distant cousin, Mr. Elliot (Henry Golding), who is set to inherit the family estate because Sir Walter didn’t have a son.

Golding uses charm convincingly, but his character is the least satisfactorily written in this version – too blatantly transparent to seduce someone as smart as Anne. He openly confesses his plan to prevent Sir Walter from remarrying and fathering a male heir, even while courting Anne. Mr. Elliot was meant to be a mysterious figure with a hidden agenda; disclosing all of this upfront undermines its effectiveness.

Much of Austen’s nuance is jettisoned to make the story more nimble and straightforward, particularly the double bond of Anne, who didn’t want to disappoint family friend and adviser Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird), who feels remorse herself, Advising Anne against marrying Wentworth years earlier. The regret that seeps through the novel is watered down considerably.

But any sacrifices in terms of texture are more than compensated for by the warmth Johnson brings to the central role, bridging the gap between now and then with graceful command. Her intimacy with the camera is natural, which suits Austen’s free indirect discourse well, and her English accent is more than passable. Jarvis (Peaky Blinders, Lady Macbeth), with his sexy stubble and mutton chops, makes a good Wentworth, smoldering quietly while holding his cards close to his vest. For anyone not overly bothered by deviations from the novel, the romantic denouement will be immensely enjoyable.

Tackling her first feature film, veteran London stage director Cracknell draws from the ensemble a solid work, sure of the tricky balancing act between regency and contemporary, and a comfortable sense of tempo enhanced by Stuart Earl’s delicate score .

conviction doesn’t have the Wes Anderson-esque visual splendor of Autumn de Wildes Emma from 2020, but there’s a similar attention to detail in the gorgeous pastel interiors of John Paul Kelly’s production design, while Marianne Agertoft’s costumes evoke the period with a more relaxed, minimalist flair, in keeping with the modern attitude. (Sir Walter’s brocade coat is a gecko’s paradise.) DP Joe Anderson’s elegant compositions make the most of some beautiful country settings, especially when the party travels to Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast.

From the minute the trailer dropped, the austenitic gatekeepers cried a sacrilege, and sure, that’ll irk the novel’s lovers. But it’s a film that knows exactly what it’s doing, using its source as a foundation rather than an unrelenting blueprint, with a star ideally chosen to navigate its century-long gambit. She is a woman prone to persuasion but ultimately driven by her own sense of agency. Viewed as a standalone rom-com only loosely tied to its origins, the film is a sweet distraction.

[One of the film’s producers, MRC, is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled PMRC.]

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