JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Persuasion (1995)

Welcome to the first meeting of the JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB!

The first Tuesday of each month, we’ll be discussing a different Jane Austen film or TV adaptation.

This month: the 1995 version of PERSUASION.

If you’ve ever seen it, please join in the discussion!

As this is our first meeting, I’ll start by saying a few words about how this will work.

After gathering suggestions, I’ll announce each forthcoming selection a month ahead of time.

On the day of the meeting, I’ll put useful and pertinent info in my post to help the discussion (such as cast lists, etc, so we don’t have to go searching for names.)

I may also suggest topics to discuss — but if I do, these will just be suggestions! So please, discuss whatever aspects you wish.

So: this month’s film: 1995′s PERSUASION.

Tidbit: although this was shown first as a television movie in the UK, it was released in movie theatres in the US.

MOVIE DETAILS (courtesy imdb.com):

Director: Roger Michell

Screenwriter: Nick Dear

CAST:

Anne Elliot: Amanda Root

Wentworth: Ciaran Hinds

Tidbit: Ciaran Hinds played Rochester in the 1997 Jane Eyre

Lady Russell: Susan Fleetwood

Sir Walter: Corin Redgrave

Elizabeth Elliot: Phoebe Nicholls

Mrs. Clay: Felicity Dean


Mary Musgrove: Sophie Thompson

Tidbit: Sophie Thompson had a role in another Austen adaptation — she played Miss Bates in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma. She is also the sister of Emma Thompson, who played Elinor (and wrote the screenplay) for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility

Charles Musgrove: Simon Russell Beale

Louisa Musgrove: Emma Roberts

Henrietta Musgrove: Victoria Hamilton

Mrs. Musgrove: Judy Cornwell

Mr. Musgrove: Roger Hammond

Captain Harville: Robert Glenister

Captain Benwick: Richard McCabe

Tidbit: Actor Richard McCabe had a role in Notting Hill, also directed by Roger Michell

Mrs. Harville: Sally George

Admiral Croft: John Woodvine

Mrs. Croft: Fiona Shaw

Mr. Elliot: Samuel West

Tidbit: Samuel West also appeared in one installment of the recent Hornblower series, as St. John Rivers in the 1996 Jane Eyre, and as the poet Southey in the 2000 film Pandaemonium

Nurse Rook: Jane Wood

Mrs. Smith: Helen Schlesinger

As I said before, please discuss any aspect of the movie that you wish!

But if you don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas:

Did any of the actors seem to you to be perfect for their roles?

Did you think any of the actors were miscast?

If you’ve read the book, what did you think of the screenplay? Did you think any of the characters were changed in a way that weakened the story? Did you think the right things were cut or shortened?

If you haven’t read the book, did you find the movie easy to follow? Was it confusing in places? Could you keep all the characters straight?

How did the low lighting in nighttime scenes work for you?

How about the long wordless passages?

Overall, how well did you like the movie?

Anyway, those are just a few questions that may spark answers! Answer any or none, answer other questions, or pose your own.

And one more question: do you have a suggestion for what adaptation we should discuss at the next meeting of the Jane Austen Movie Club, which will meet the first Tuesday of August?

Cara
Cara King, author of My Lady Gamester, and Austen movie nut

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading her mother’s Georgette Heyer novels, but it wasn’t until she went on an international assignment to the United Kingdom that she was inspired to start writing her own. Her first Regency romance was published in 2000 and was followed by five more Regencies and a novella. Her books have won the Desert Rose Golden Quill and Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club’s award for Best Regency Romance of 2005. Elena lives in upstate New York with her stroke survivor husband and two daughters.
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31 Responses to JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Persuasion (1995)

  1. Kalen Hughes says:

    Samuel West was also in Notting Hill (as “the most indiscreet man in England”), furthering my belief that there are, in fact, only thirty actors in all of Britain. LOL!

    I love this version of Persuasion. I think they did a wonderful job at having Anne bloom as the film progresses, and I just adore how stupid and self-involved her sisters and father are. And It made me a forever-fan of Ciaran Hinds (how much did he rock as Caesar?). I think the blowsy, mussy Musgrave sisters are more what the 2005 P&P actresses should have looked like (messy, not greasy).

    And I adore the final scene, with the captain and Anne in Bath and the suddenly quiet parade of circus performers.

  2. Tracy Grant says:

    I love this movie too! I think it perfectly captures the ache of love lost and re-found as and Anne’s transformation, as Kalen says, and very much in keeping with the book. Wonderful cast all round, and Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were marvelous as Anne and Frederick Wentworth. Beautifully filmed too and a great script. They did a great job of capturing different levels of Regency society, from the Elliots country estate to the Musgraves home and Mary’s cottage and Wentworth’s friends’ lodgings. The one scene that jars for me is toward the end an at evening party (right before Frederick comes in to ask Anne’s father for her hand). Someone says in a conversational voice something like “Oh, yes, Napoleon’s escaped from Elba, we’ll be at war again.” Quite as if that wasn’t major news that would have been the talk of the evening if it had just happened.

  3. Diane Gaston says:

    I saw Persuasion in the movie theater when I was first getting interested in Regency romance. I was totally blown away!
    I loved the realism of the setting, so the lighting worked for me. This film had such atmosphere! It had a quiet elegance.
    Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were perfect, I thought (agreeing with Tracy).
    I can’t think of any weaknesses!

  4. This is also my favorite of all the Austen adaptations! So sad and sweet, perfect casting, perfect costumes and settings.

    I’ve heard some scary things about the new adapation, though…

  5. Cara King says:

    I must say this is one of my very favorite Austen adaptations. I adore Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. I think the script is very good, and somewhat daring — though I know some who hadn’t read the book who were a little confused in places.

    I love a lot of the actors in minor roles — Fiona Shaw (Mrs. Croft), Simon Russell Beale (Charles Musgrove), and Nurse Rook & Mrs. Smith (effective and memorable in tiny roles.)

    My negatives: although I adore Sophie Thompson as Miss Bates in Emma, here she just didn’t really do anything for me as the hypochondriac Mary. I guess I found her not so much funny-annoying, as just annoying — and maybe a little over-the-top.

    My biggest problem is with the older sister, Elizabeth. We’re supposed to believe that this elegant creature lounges and screeches? She just comes across to me as extremely vulgar, which I think weakens the whole thing. (One wonders what Lady Russell is thinking liking the family…)

    Anyway, that’s my only major criticism. I love the lighting, the realistic costumes and hair (and lack of makeup), the scenery… And I think Hinds is a very dreamy Wentworth, and he has wonderful chemistry with Root.

    I will admit, when I first read the novel, I found Wentworth a bit childish and petulant. Luckily, Hinds found a way to show all his insecurity and emotion without coming across that way! (Now when I reread it, I picture him…) :-)

    Cara

  6. Cara King says:

    I’ve heard some scary things about the new adapation, though…

    Me too, Amanda! Can’t wait to see it and cringe… :-) (Or even better, be delightfully surprised!)

    Cara

  7. Kalen Hughes says:

    My biggest problem is with the older sister, Elizabeth. We’re supposed to believe that this elegant creature lounges and screeches? She just comes across to me as extremely vulgar, which I think weakens the whole thing.

    Now see, I think she’s great. She’s narcissistic and vulgar in exactly the same way their father is, so it makes sense to me that he favors her. I just love the tirade about “She is a vicountess. A vicountess!”

    One of the tidbits I got from a costuming book was that Amanda Root asked for elasticized panels to be put in her stays so they would be more comfortable!

  8. Cara King says:

    She’s narcissistic and vulgar in exactly the same way their father is, so it makes sense to me that he favors her.

    I admit I’m not crazy about the portrayal of the father either, Kalen. :-) I guess I’d prefer them both to be more like I feel Austen’s characters were — narcissistic, yes, but in an extremely proper and elegant way. :-)

    Cara

  9. Kalen Hughes says:

    See, they felt just the way I see them in the Austen book, so maybe that’s the difference in our takes on the movie. I never thought them elegant. The father always read like a pompous windbag to me, and the elder sister like one of those women who always looks as though she smells something bad. I thought the slightly rat-faced actress got that across just perfectly.

  10. janegeorge says:

    I thought this movie did a great job of communicating the depth of what Anne and Wentworth were feeling o the inside.

    How she grips the chair, for instance, when she knows she’s about to see him for the first time in seven years. Or how he leaves the concert, unable to take the torture of watching Anne with Mr. Elliot.

    I love Hinds in this, but my favorite role of his is the B-A-D Templar in Ivanhoe!

  11. Cara King says:

    Ooh, I haven’t seen that Ivanhoe, janegeorge! I’m so behind in seeing things… I think I have it on tape somewhere though… :-)

    Cara

  12. “I just love the tirade about “She is a vicountess. A vicountess!” “

    LOL! This is very funny, because I loved that bit so much I went around for days after yelling it myself–still do sometimes (my friends don’t generally appreciate that…)

    I also liked the portrayal of the father and sister–I pictured them as rather vulgar, snobby, completely un-self-aware people when reading the book (which is also my favorite Austen book), and often wondered how Anne came to be from the same family. :)

    I liked the portrayal of Mary, too, because she was so entirely annoying, and also un-self-aware in a different way (is that even a word?). She sort of reminds me of a hypochondriac aunt of mine–”My colds are always worse than anyone else’s,” and that sort of thing. And she’s not even a viscountess!!!

  13. BTW, has anyone read “Jane Austen in Scarsdale’? It’s by the author of “Jane Austen in Boca,” and it’s meant to be a modern setting of Persuasion set in (you guessed it!) Scarsdale. Pretty entertaining.

  14. I must say, I failed to understand this Tele-Vision production. After all, the hero did not enter into it until it was half over, and he wasn’t in it all that much after that, either.

    Handsome chap, though.

    Bertie the Beau, at your service

  15. Todd says:

    This movie may be my favorite Austen adaptation ever–in large part because I think the book is very internal and reflective, which is very difficult to translate to film. When confronted with a book that contains a lot of self-reflection, film makers often get panicky and start adding dialogue to explain everyone’s motivation. Bleah! (They did this in the film version of The Remains of the Day, which is one reason I find it far weaker than the novel.)

    But in this film, the director had the guts to go with long passages of silence–Anne looking at herself in a mirror; Anne walking through a house with all the furniture covered–and expected that the audience would empathize and know what she was feeling without being told. And it works beautifully! A few moments were a little overt for me–I found Anne’s clutching of the chair when seeing Wentworth again a bit too obvious–but on the whole I thought it was wonderfully done.

    I loved Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in this, and Simon Russell Beale is one of my favorite actors. (Just saw him in the lead of Spamalot in London–funny, though perhaps not his finest moment. :-) I thought Sir Walter and Anne’s sisters were not very subtly done, but they’re not really very subtle in the book either.

    I also liked that the scenes at night were really dark. We are so used to electric lighting, we don’t appreciate what a difference there was between night and day in earlier times.

    BTW, if we are voting on next month’s selection, I would like to put in a word for the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice.

    Todd-whose-heart-still-belongs-to-Jennifer-Ehle-but-Amanda-Root-is-very-nice-too

  16. Todd says:

    Bertie, old thing,

    I don’t know how to break this to you, but Mr. Elliot was not the hero.

    Todd-who-hates-to-shatter-your-illusions

  17. I like Ciaran Hinds best in this movie, too, and think this is his personal best, too. I actually dug the low-lighting–they added such drama to those scenes. Unlike P&P, this story isn’t all frivolity and dressage (to use horse terminology). It has substance doled out in measured amounts.

  18. I don’t know how to break this to you, but Mr. Elliot was not the hero.

    Oh, now, nonsense. Of course he was. The most handsome man is always the hero.

    And what a sad, sad Movie! The heroine pines away for A Man Unworthy of Her — who is red of face and cannot see her worth — but lo, a young and handsome and rather elegant chap shows up, and favors our heroine. In response, she starts using Gowland’s Lotion and looking younger. True love indeed!

    But then the ruddy fellow decides that if he can’t have the empty-headed girl who jumped off the cliff, he’ll take the heroine instead — and, bound by a sense of loyalty, she takes him instead of the hero.

    Tragic indeed.

    I wept into my lace-edged handkerchief.

    And now, to cheer myself up, I shall have to go see “The Fantastic Four” in the theatre. It has some very attractive performers in it, and I suspect it will not end tragically.

    Your, as ever,

    Bertram St. James, Exquisite

  19. Elena Greene says:

    I love this version, too, cannot find fault with any of it but especially loved Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root’s performances. I also loved the low lighting and other details of setting. It felt like one of the most accurate Austen depictions. Not as prettified as Emma for instance (though I enjoyed that too it was more “Prinnyland”). Not as deliberately gritty as the recent P&P (though come to think of it I enjoyed that one too).

    OK, my name is Elena. I am an Austen movie ho. I’ve liked them all so far though perhaps that will change next year.

  20. I wanted to add… Cara, excellent lead-in to the movie discussion, including great stills. I need to go get the movie again now.

  21. Lois says:

    For me, it’s already been a little while since I’ve seen it (last month! LOL) so I don’t remember it too well. . . but I probably mentioned here that my plan was to read the book first then watch the 1995 and 2007 versions right after, which I did.

    And well, I guess I’m in the minority, but I liked the 2007 version better. LOL But I won’t dwell on that one since that’s not the topic. (well, maybe a little bit since I need to compare it for one of my points)

    Since it was a book that was more inflection and thoughts of Anne’s, and just like Todd said about translating that to film, I thought the 2007 version did a better job with that — or by then, since I was doing both movies right after reading the book, I just knew the story so well by then, I’m just thinking they did that better. LOL

    I can swear I had another point about it, but I just can’t remember for my life right now. Oh well. . .

    On a personal note, I really wish I never saw Tomb Raider 2 because every time the actor was on the screen, I did not see Captain Wentworth, I saw the bad guy from Tomb Raider. Geez louise, I’m bad. LOL :)

    Still, in the end, out of the three JA stories I read, I rank it as third favorite. I liked it, but I loved P&P and NA.

    As for suggestions for next time. . . well, I’ll always go for 95BBC ;) but I am considering to tackle Emma next, and I did get my hands on three versions – 1997, 1996 and 1972 I believe, I wouldn’t mind one of those. But I’ll go with any because while I’ve gotten my hands on a number of movies and have the books to go with them, I still haven’t seen many of them, so I’ll go with any! :)

    Lois

  22. Lois says:

    PS – I do believe I liked the scene on how she gets the letter better in this version than the 2007 one. :)

    Hi Bertie! :) And well, as for heroes, have to admit that is another reason why I liked the other version more. . . that Captain Wentworth. . . :)

    Lois

  23. I’m going to have to rewatch this one. It’s been a while but when I did watch it last, I know I saw it several times before I returned the tape. The moments without words were very clear. And I do remember the last scene, with the circus parade as a backdrop for Anne and the captain.

    I’ll also watch for Sam West — he was just in an episode of “As Time Goes By” – a modern-day tale of love lost and found. I had to check his credentials to figure out why I knew him. Forgot he was in Persuasion until I saw his listings.

  24. Cara King says:

    And well, I guess I’m in the minority, but I liked the 2007 version better.

    Oh, now I really want to see it, Lois!

    On a personal note, I really wish I never saw Tomb Raider 2 because every time the actor was on the screen, I did not see Captain Wentworth, I saw the bad guy from Tomb Raider. Geez louise, I’m bad. LOL :)

    Okay, now that’s just sad. :-) By the way, Lois, my Austen favorites sound like they go in the same order as yours — P&P, NA, and then Persuasion. How about the next three? How do you order them? (Actually, I’m not sure how I would…perhaps Emma, MP, S&S? Or Emma, S&S, MP…)

    Cara

  25. Lois says:

    Well, I did try not to talk about the 2007 version since this was the 1995 version blog, but it was too hard not to. LOL

    Yep, totally agree, sad, sad, sad. LOL And I’ve sure seen Phantom plenty, but I just really didn’t see the manager role. I guess it’s just because he looked alike between Persuasion and Tomb Raider. In Phantom he had a mustache. ;)

    Alas, I still have the other three to tackle and read, so I can’t rate them just yet. But I think after the next few books I have lined up to read, I’m going to read all the JAs I have left. I just feel lost when people talk about them so I’m going to read them all in a row. . . just not sure on what that row’s going to look like. . . ;)

    I think I’m going to reread Northanger Abbey first because I don’t really remember it and then watch the 2007 version of that movie. . .

    After that, I’m leaning towards Emma because I got copies of three movies of that one. . . then it’s a toss up which will come next and then last. I got two Mansfield Park versions, the new one and I think it’s 1999 for the other, not quite sure. And for Sense and Sensibility, I just have the Emma Thompson one. But I might change the order depending on what movie is chosen next (unless it’s P&P, which I know quite well with all four versions. LOL) :)

    Lois

  26. Michelle says:

    This is one of my favorite film adaptations of an Austen novel as well. I agree that it does a terrific job of externally showing internal changes.

    My only criticism is that I think it really underplays the importance of Anne’s relationship with Lady Russell and why her opinion is so important to Anne. When I read the book, L.R. seemed to be such an important character, and she did not come across that way in this film version.

    -Michelle

  27. Cara King says:

    My only criticism is that I think it really underplays the importance of Anne’s relationship with Lady Russell

    Interesting point, Michelle! I never thought of it that way, but I will say, I always *liked* the Lady Russell in the book better. The one in the movie seems perhaps too much of a snob… Whereas in the book, her only possible fault was her incomprehensible liking for Elizabeth and Sir Walter! :-)

    (Okay, I know she was a little bit of a snob in the book, but it was only one small bit of her character.)

    Cara

  28. Michelle says:

    Cara,

    If I remember correctly, Lady Russell’s opinion was the main reason Anne turned down her sea-faring man years before, and the movie never showed why Anne would value LR’s opinion so much – what she gained from her relationship with LR – the “loveable” side of LR. If I had watched the movie without reading the book first, I might not have understood why Anne did listen to LR’s advice years before. Her homelife – except for her relationship with LR – was pretty emotionally grim. A big part of Anne’s journey in my reading of Persuasion was her “breaking away” from LR’s influence, and the movie never really showed that. But, that didn’t stop me from loving that movie. :) I look forward to the next Jane Austen movie discussion.

    -Michelle

  29. michelle, I was interested in your comments about Lady Russell and I wonder whether Austen did a lot more with her than the movie did. I don’t remember much detail, just a little perfunctory setup, but then, at my age, there’s a lot I don’t remember. If you have any specific instances to cite from the novel, of Anne and her relationship with Lady Russell, I’d love to know about them.

    There’s a lot I love about this movie. It’s almost my favorite (though I maintain a dark-horse preference for the TV Emma with Kate Beckinsale, which I think has moments when it probes beneath the prettiness of what Elena calls the Prinnyworld Jane Austen).

    But in some ways this is the most probing of the filmed Austens — certainly if you take into account the class hatred beaming out of the eyes of footmen and menials from time to time. I’ve read that Corin Redgrave, who plays Sir Walter, is the reddest of the Redgraves; my husband loved his sendup of Sir Walter, tho I found it a little broad. Fiona Shaw delivers Mrs. Croft’s “reasonable creatures” speech with extraordinary luminosity and sent me scurrying back to the text to see if Austen actually did use that phrase of Mary Wollstonecraft (yes, she very wonderfully did). The dance at the Musgroves makes me cry every time — Ciaran Hinds is never hunkier or more compelling than during that sweaty, stomping, flirtatious dance, when he’s trying with all his resentful heart to make Anne see and feel what she missed. And Simon Russell Beale is absolutely right as Charles Musgrove — to me he makes that whole naive English country squire thing with the dogs and guns absolutely explicable and sympathetic.

  30. Femmy says:

    I just saw this movie.

    I don’t like Hinds. He is too old. He doesn’t look as good as the blond actor from a later version. Sorry, but I don’t think he is good looking enough for our hero.

    I like the actress who plays Anne. She has a nice face.

    I like how the person who cast the sisters made them all look so alike. Incredible. At first I couldn’t tell them apart. Same with the Musgrove sisters.

    I love Sophie (Miss Bates in PP) as Mary. I was wondering why she looked so familiar. She plays her role sooo well. So hilarious and funny. She cracks me up the whole time. Great comedic acting. She got the character just right from the book. I think Miss A. would approve. :)

    I thought the father and Eliabeth were very well done in their roles.
    But I agree with another commentor that E. was played much too vulgar. In the book she does not act vulgar at all. She is very polite and well mannered to everyone, even Anne.

    I liked the Admiral’s wife. She is prettier in the movie than in the book. And the other version I think had a better casting for her role.

    I thought Mr. Elliot was very good looking and pleasing–he looked like Emma’s Frank Churchill–I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.
    Someone once said that all JA’s bad boys had the same character. I’m guessing she’s right–they should all be elegant, good looking and evil in all three movies — Emma, Persuasion and PP.

    I didn’t like the ending. So out of line with real life in those days. You didn’t kiss, let alone in public. I didn’t like that about the later version either. And you don’t walk into a card party and announce your intentions. So weird. But I like how she dressed at the party.

    • Elena says:

      Hi, Femmy. Thanks for visiting the Risky Regencies. As you see we have a lot of different opinions, all welcome as long as we’re friendly! I would agree that Ciaran Hinds looks a smidge older than I imagined, but I actually like that neither he nor Amanda Root are good-looking in a supermodel style, just ordinary, reasonably attractive people. It makes it more real to me. As to the kissing, ah well. People did kiss, though as you say not generally in public. This one is rather sweet and doesn’t feel tacked-on as the kiss does in the American version of the 2005 P&P.

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