Making movies is tricky business, and despite its clever algorithmic help, Netflix has failed to turn art into science. For every Roma or Bird Box, there’s a Father of the Year, and sadly Netflix’s latest movie is closer to that one — at least according to Rotten Tomatoes’ critical crowdsourcing.
Persuasion — a modernization of Jane Austen’s last posthumous novel — takes a critical hit with a score of just 33% rotten tomatoes (opens in a new tab) out of 18 reviews. And while reimagining Austen’s work for modern audiences has worked in the past (Bridget Jones’s Diary grossed $282 million and warranted two sequels, after all), the consensus here is that this Persuasion tale just doesn’t work. just not.
“The most honest title might be Bridgerbag, such is the influence of two recent cultural landmarks,” writes Danny Leign in the Financial Times’ (opens in a new tab) two star review. “The satin sheen of another Netflix hit, Bridgerton, is omnipresent in the film – the air of millennial hot mess doesn’t come quite fresh from Fleabag.”
He’s not the only one noticing the revolutionary influence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s revolutionary comedy fourth wall. The “remarkable camera conversations” of protagonist Anne (Dakota Johnson) are “relentless” and “exhaust all dramatic usefulness long before the end of the first act”, writes the Times. (opens in a new tab) Kevin Maher in another two star review. Johnson – “savagely miscast” – is always up for a “tiring, needlessly rote banter on camera,” he adds.
A common thread of reviews is that this is an unnecessarily dumb movie. “He tries so hard to relate to a modern audience without ever considering that there’s a reason Jane Austen’s novels have been popular since they first appeared in print,” writes Nicole Ackman at Watch the rewards (opens in a new tab). “It’s almost insulting to her audience to assume that without modern jargon and images of a woman crying into her pillow, we can’t understand grief and regret.”
Weekly entertainment (opens in a new tab) accepted. “This Persuasion chooses to wear its source material as thin disposable skin, stripping out many vital organs (brain, heart) and most subtleties as it goes,” writes Leah Greenblatt.
The reviewers who seem to get something out of it are usually those willing to leave the source material at the door. But even then, generally, the praise is low. “In short, Austen fans will find this adaptation grim and infuriating, viewers looking for an enjoyable third-tier rom-com with an unmistakably modern sensibility in period attire might be entertained for all 110 minutes,” concludes Noah Berlatsky to Geek Wealth (opens in a new tab).
But really, there’s no shortage of quality content on the service, so why bother? Here are the best movies on Netflix, if you need some inspiration.