Ah, lovely Persuasion, the mature readers’ Austen.
CONFESSION: this book wasn’t my favourite for a very long time. It wasn’t even top 3. I hadn’t read it since my twenties, and it was good, sure, but not as charming as Northanger Abbey, or as romantic as Pride and Prejudice, or even as heartwarming as Emma. So I tucked it onto my ‘done and done’ shelf, and didn’t think of it again, letting it fall around fifth or even sixth in my Austen rankings.
Now, after reading it again in preparation for this recap, and after watching this movie; I. GET. IT. I understand why “Persuasion Twitter” came out in forces when I had a poll about your favourite Austen. I’m with you, dear readers, and I apologize for my lateness.
I love it all; the undercurrent of boiling emotions barely kept in check, the misunderstanding, the intensity of words unsaid, the meaning behind every moment of eye contact, the YEARNING. You guys… the yearning.
I’ve chosen the 2007 version because (and I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, especially to YOU) I’ve never seen the 1995 Ciarán Hinds / Amanda Root vehicle. I know. I KNOW, okay?? Someday.
Meet Anne Elliot, her sister Elizabeth, her father William, and their kindly but nosey neighbour Lady Russell. Anne is a responsible, polite lil’ boss, while her dad and sister are, hmmmmm, how do I say this… THE WORST. They are boobs of the highest order, who prize pride and appearance over reason. Because of this, their estate, Kellynch Hall, was bankrupt, and they had to let it out to an Admiral with a suspiciously dreamy brother-in-law.
Awwwwwwww shit, it was entirely possible that Anne might run into her old crush Captain Wentworth. Of course, by ‘crush’ I mean the man she was desperately in love with, and engaged to before her dumb family stepped in and convinced her he was worse than a DJ or whatever. Lady Russell, who had been implicit in persuading Anne that love is stupid, was like, “yeah, but… you’re such a catch!” And Anne was like, “I’m 27, an old woman whom no one would want to touch with their bare hands, or smell, or look at, because I’m so old and gross with my old gross face and old gross skin, ugh 27 is so old,” which didn’t even hurt my 36 year old feelings at all! Anyway, then she was like, “gtfo so I can yearn in peace,” which was basically the summary of this shockingly sexy movie.
Admiral and Mrs. Exposition arrived and immediately gazed out a window talking about the laughable possibility that their bro will ever settle down because apparently he hadn’t even glanced at a woman in years. Hmmmm wonder WHYYYYYY???
Because Anne’s entire family was just the absolute worst, they sent her to care for her ‘ill’ younger sister while the others went to Bath to laze about and eat exotic fruit, or hunt the poor, or other some such regency-elite nonsense.
Mary was married to Charles Musgrove, who had two delightful sisters of marrying age living nearby. They were in an aroused tizzy over the prospect of a certain broodingly handsome naval captain coming to dinner, who was, as it was rumoured, a legit hunk.
Luckily her nephew fell out of a tree and broke his collarbone (whew, ammiright?) so Anne got an excuse to avoid awkwardly reuniting with her ex over some nosh while her excitable friends and family watched. Very relatable.
Aaaaaaaaaand there he was, waltzing back into her life after 8 years, looking all handsome and accomplished, and not even caring about her presence even a little bit, no sirree! Don’t ask him for any hoots, because he didn’t have any to give! *wink*
Our boy is many things, but subtle he is not. He straight-up called Anne out at dinner by being super intense about his ideal type; a boss ass bitch who doesn’t take shit from anyone (unlike the boss ass bitch he used to run with, who happened to take shit from everyone).
He very casually watched her play piano with SO MUCH YEARNING that my ovaries exploded, but everything is fine, don’t worry about it, he’s totally indifferent, his hoots are still nowhere to be found. *wink*
Anyway, they all danced to her piano playing, and he totally showed off for NO ONE IN PARTICULAR thank you very much, and on the way home Admiral and Mrs. Exposition debated which of the young pretty girls he would marry, as if they weren’t violently stabbing Anne in the heart with every word they were saying.
Their little posse took a walk to some unfavourable relations that Mary refused to pop in on (because she’s the WORST), and Anne (from the bushes like a creep) overheard Louisa telling Captain Dreamboat that Anne was once proposed to by Charles, but was convinced out of it AGAIN, thereby reinforcing his idea that her character is weak (even though WE know she refused him because her heart belonged to another). SUCH STRIFE! SUCH YEARNING! I love it.
Anne salivating over Wentworth riding his horse beside the carriage was ALL OF US, and it’s possible that I went back to watch this scene again and again. Anyway, they went to Lyme to meet up with Wentworth’s navy pals, who were like, “Oh, YOU’RE Anne,” and then very indiscreetly looked her up and down fifteen times, like, “uhhmm hmmmmmm”, which made it very obvious that Wentworth gossiped to his boys about his broken heart, and I JUST.
At dinner, Anne pep-talked Benwick into getting the eff over the dead love of his life, but he was all, “men don’t get over our feelings as easily as women,” and Anne straight up laughed in his face until soup came out of her nose, because BRO, PLEASE.
As the posse was strolling back, a handsome stranger gave Anne a good long stare as the waves crashed majestically around him. I would like to take this opportunity to imagine a world where this man is never seen again in the story, and to appreciate how gloriously awkward this moment would become. Alas, that was not the case, as this fellow was in fact Anne’s estranged cousin who will someday inherit her home because Regency laws are stupid.
Hahahahahhahahahahhahaha forever. I’m so sorry, I know this was a serious moment, but Louisa LAUNCHING herself off the stairs and COMPLETELY MISSING Wentworth just really tickled me. Was she even aiming for him? Did Wentworth even know the goal of the game was to catch her?? He barely raised his hands! Anyway, because Regency women had yet to learn how to tuck and roll, Louisa hit her head, and Anne First-Aided the shit out the situation. This, of course, reminded our boy of why he fell in love with her in the first place, and he was all, “Anne should take care of her because she is the best person alive and by far the most capable human being to have ever existed, including everyone in our immediate acquaintance,” and Mary (who is the WORST), was all, “EXSQUEEZE ME???” She threw a hissy, and so Anne volunteered to go with Wentworth to tell Louisa’s family about her absurd injury.
It will truly never not be funny to me. I hope they never let her live it down.
Anyway, Wentworth informed the family, and then Anne was all, “send word to Bath about the all the jokes everyone tells about this, it was cool knowing you.” Then, THEN, our boy was like, “you don’t even like Bath,” alluding to their past conversations, and showed real concern, and YOU GUYS, my heart! But, she had to go where she was needed, because Regency society was stupid, so off she went.
Captain Wentworth’s reaction to the assumption that he would marry Louisa was just so WENTWORTH, ya know? He had let his feelings for Anne drive his actions, not realizing that he was misleading another woman, and now that he DID realize it, he was fully prepared to make good on it (swoon). His friend, in a tradition that would last to this very day, was like, “Just ghost her for a while and hopefully she’ll get pissed enough to dump you first.” So off he went to visit his brother in the hopes that the heavy rain would douse Louisa’s burning desire.
Meanwhile in Bath, Anne was putting up a very unconvincing show of being totally over Captain Brooding Hunk, and Lady Russell was like, “hahaha, suuuuuuure,” but Anne was all, “no for real, it’s so cool, it’s frozen, and in fact dangerous to touch lest you get frostbite, that’s how cool it is that he’s getting married to another, No. Big. Deal.”
Turns out Cousin Willy was in town after reconciling with the Elliots (they were fighting because his wife was left wing or something), but now she was “quite dead”, and who even cares, because had quite the lil’ crush on our girl. He was all, “we saw each other once before, and now we’re seeing each other again, it must be FATE,” and her story with Captain Wentworth was like, “hold my ale.”
Anyway, Anne was sort of suspicious of Willy’s shenanigans, but she still accepted his very obvious flirting, which sent her sister Elizabeth (the WORST) into a fury (hahaha).
Anne got a letter from her bro-in-law hinting at a marriage in the near future, and Anne was not super into the idea of her one true love marrying someone else. But, Regency’s gotta Regency, so she had to put on a smile and pretend to be happy for them while her soul withered and died a slow but painful death. No big deal!
Whaaaaaaaaat? Are you telling me that this man, who had spent the entire movie convincing himself and his friends of his indifference towards his ex, was actually still in love with her??? *exaggerated shocked face* Fredford had a nice chat with his pal where he confessed his unrelenting love for Anne and her cute lil’ face, and her boss-bitch attitude. Luckily, he didn’t have to marry Louisa, because she was engaged to their sad-sack friend! So they laughed and hugged and supported each other emotionally, and it was OUTSTANDING. I love friendship!
Speaking of friendships, I dunked on Mrs. Russell for being hoity-toit, but she truly did want the best for our girl, even if she did almost forever ruin her chance at happiness. She told Anne that Cousin Willy doodles her name on all of his notebooks with little hearts, and that if she married him, she’d get to live in her old home again (ugh, Regency). Anne was tempted, of course, but not enough to make this a legit love triangle (pppppffffffttttt like he COULD).
Admiral and Mrs. Exposition came for a visit and vagued all OVER Anne, talking about the marriage that happened, and not dropping any names until Anne was in quite a fake-happy state of true despair. But joy! T’was NOT Captain Wentworth getting married, it was his sad-sack friend! In fact, Cap was in town, and still very much single and ready to mingle! Huzzah!
GAHHHHHHHHHH I LOVE IT. Captain Wentworth essentially handed Anne his heart and was like, “I believe you dropped this,” and she was like, “oh, that’s not mine,” and he was all, “it damn well is,” and she was like, “gimme then.” Of course, all this transpired under the guise of talking about his friend, who he didn’t believe could legit be in love with Louisa, because one does not get over true love so easily, and EVERYONE within earshot (us, the shopkeep, the ghosts) knew he was talking about his own unyielding love for her.
Cousin Willy knew what was up (he could probably smell the sexual tension) (I said what I said), yet decided to ignore his every sense and still tried to insert himself into this non-existent love triangle.
They went to a concert (and Willy probably bought way too many glowsticks), but after Admiral and Mrs. Exposition gossiped about future wedding bells (those two love hot goss), Cap was like, “effffffffffffffffffffffff this,” and left. His gravitational pull on her heart compelled Anne to follow, and it became very clear that he believed she was promised to another, because he was VERY HUFFY.
Anyway, Willy proposed by saying, “I hope your name never changes, cause we’re related, get it?” And Anne was like, “Gross, dude,” but really she was all, “I’ll think about it, now buzz off.”
But who even CARES about stupid Cousin Willy because Captain Wentworth left a letter saying he would call at 11am, and every single member of her stupid family decided to show up at that exact moment, so she and Captain Dreamboat had to go into a side room to discuss the possible ruination of their happiness.
Fred was all, “if you’re getting married, which I hope you’re not, but if you are, my brother will move out of your home so that if you get married, please don’t, but if you do, you can return to it,” and Anne was like, “no need,” and the Captain was like, “don’t play with me, girl,” and Anne was all, “you smell nice.” BUT, they were interrupted by Mrs. Russell, and she was like, “oh wow, hi, omg, do you remember me?” and he was all, “yeah, for sure, you’re the woman who ruined my happiness and tore out my heart lovely to see you again.” Then he left in a sort of joyous huff? This boy loves huffs.
Her stupid family were both metaphorically and literally in the way of her heart’s desire, and Anne didn’t hesitate to barrel through them and run after the love of her life. Her chase was interrupted by her old school chum who was like, “by the way, Cousin Willy is the absolute worst,” and Anne was like, “honestly, at this point it truly does not matter,” and continued in pursuit of her true happiness.
AHHHHHHHH, SWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON. He left a letter with his pal to tell Anne that he thinks she’s cooler than ice cream, and that he was, “half in agony, half in hope.” So she tracked him all over town and breathlessly told him to shut the eff up and kiss her already.
Yay! Then they got married and he… bought her house? Which wasn’t… possible… right? It didn’t happen in the books, but whatever, movies gotta movie.
And that was that! I really enjoyed this movie, you guys, A LOT. Perhaps the 1995 version is better, I don’t know (I’ll watch it, I swear!), but this version just really did it for me. The long glances mixed with the quick, almost compulsive glances, and the jealous glances and hopeful glances, just ALL THE GLANCES.
This story has climbed my Austen list, and while Northanger Abbey remains my favourite for its unabashed cheek, Persuasion is currently settled at number two.
- “A man does not forget a woman as readily as you forget us.”
“I will not allow a woman’s nature to be more inconstant than a man’s.”
“And yet you will allow that poetry and novels are against you. They tell us endlessly of the fickleness of women.”
“And are they not all written by men?”
PREACH, Anne. This bullshit continues TO THIS DAY.
- Tobias Menzies is such a sneaky dreamboat. He often plays villains or boobs, so your brain is like, “DON’T fall in love with him,” but after a while it’s unavoidable because he’s a talented and charming, adorable hunk.
- Want to make me fall madly in love with your heroine? Have her calmly reset a bone like a freaking boss. My God, that was gross and awesome.
- So much open staring.
- Appreciation bullet point for the entire Elliot family, who walked the perfect line of insufferable and foppish. Giles himself, Anthony Head as Sir. Elliot, and Amanda Hale and Julia Davis as Mary and Elizabeth respectively. They all made me want to slap their stupid faces, and that is a sign of a job well done. Specifically Mary’s delivery of the information about Cousin William’s unfortunate wife being, “Dead. Quite dead.”
- Elizabeth being convinced that she was the object of Cousin Willy’s lil’ crush was very embarrassing for everyone.
- I left out Anne’s school chum, the widowed Mrs. Smith, who played a larger part in the book, and served mostly to convey information in the movie. She was fine? I don’t know, at the point that she gave Anne the information about William seducing her dad’s girlfriend, it was more of an afterthought considering Anne was on her way to illicit a proposal from someone else. In the book it was a bit more of a reveal, considering his involvement in her own hardships, but in the movie she seemed a bit unnecessary.
- The kid who broke his bone… dead from infection, or…?
- I truly did love Captain Wentworth’s friendships with his bros. They talked so openly about their feelings, and not only gave advice, but respected the other’s journeys and were openly affectionate, and you guys, IMAGINE if all men had that kind of supportive friendship?? I think maybe war would be cancelled?
- It took a hilariously long time for them to kiss.
This shot was about 7 minutes long. LEAN IN, buds!
- How many of you gasped out loud when I said I haven’t seen the 1995 version? Are we in a fight now?
- Where does Persuasion fall on your list? Or is your list an ever-changing kaleidoscope that shifts and bends as you grow and learn, and then shifts back as your mood dictates? Yeah. Me too.
OKAY THANKS FOR POPPING BY STAY SAFE OUT THERE!