Jane Austen enthusiasts are in for a treat: PBS is broadcasting The Complete Jane Austen, which includes adaptations of all of Austen's six novels, starting this Sunday. First up is Persuasion, which originally aired on British TV last year. Persuasion is the last, and generally thought of as the poorest, of all Austen's completed works. It focuses on heroine Anne Elliot, who fell in love with a poor naval officer named Frederick Wentworth years before the book's action takes place. Back then, Anne was convinced by her family that he was unsuitable for marriage because of his dismal economic prospects. Wentworth returns to Anne's seaside town of Bath: will he and Anne finally consummate their fractured love affair? It's an Austen novel: you figure it out. Anyway, I always found Anne to be the least interesting of the Austen heroines because she's sort of a sad sack, and the critics are similarly tepid about the performance of Sally Hawkins, who plays her. (The SF Chronicle says "her mouth twitches like a bass zeroing in on a tasty side order of plankton." Check out what the rest of the critical biddies had to say, after the jump.
Los Angeles Times
This is a rather melancholy, quiet film, played out under white or gray skies and in wet weather with a camera that seems to float as if in a dream. Scenes are played out in long shot or very close-up, and a low, rolling score emphasizes the feeling of being unmoored.
San Francisco Chronicle
Hawkins is effective at times, but at too many others, she surrenders to a wide variety of vocal mannerisms and facial tics. At the end of the film, as she is about to kiss Wentworth (oh, come on, you always knew how it comes out), her mouth twitches like a bass zeroing in on a tasty side order of plankton as her face moves slowly toward its target.
For committed Austen fans, it's surely a treat; for the rest of us, it's a tribute to palpable longing, ill-timed relationships, rolling hillsides and sumptuous gowns — all of which are put to good if predictable use in this slick and stylish premiere...despite some ups and downs, the whole thing ought to work out fine for everybody, just as in an Austen story.
Persuasion, the first production from PBS' Complete Jane Austen, badly overadjusts, adding so many fussy modern flourishes and out-of-place romantic gestures it almost undermines the inherent beauty of Austen's work.
Writer Simon Burke and director Adrian Shergold have done a remarkable job of compressing into 90 minutes Austen's least-frothy novel without sacrificing the charm of her language, though the story's central "message" — doing the wrong thing for the right reason is preferable to doing the right thing for the wrong reason — does get lost in the shuffle.
Regret, Hope And Jane Austen [Los Angeles Times]
Review: Madcap PBS 'Persuasion' Sacrifices Nuance [SF Chronicle]
Masterpiece: The Complete Jane Austen - Persuasion [Variety]
Performances Prevail In PBS' Un-Jane-like 'Persuasion' [USA Today]
Persuasion: Review [Hollywood Reporter]