Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Modern Persuasion: Movie Review

Mature adaptation, limited humour.
Modern Persuasion is literally a modern Persuasion. A 21st century adaptation of the Jane Austen classic. The main themes of a smart, independent, successful woman looking for a second chance at love is reasonably well-suited to today’s world. Austen’s novel, her last, was well received for being mature, and despite the hackneyed plot points or predictable love interests, there is an air of maturity in this version.   2020

Directed by: Alex Appel, Jonathan Lisecki

Written by: Jonathan Lisecki, Barbara Radecki
Based on the novel by Jane Austen

Starring: Alicia Witt, Shane McRae

Wren (Alicia Witt), a 40-ish successful career woman in a somewhat non-descript job at a very vague marketing company, has been single for years. She says she’s been focused on her career, and even though this sounds like every Hallmark movie that comes out this time of year, she’s also ready to admit that maybe she shouldn’t have rejected her college boyfriend. Witt provides Wren with a sense of dignified loneliness. This helps connect her to Austen’s heroine Anne Elliot and also make her relatable to some of the target audience.

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures.

The jumps from plot points to plot points just to fit in all the key moments are lazy and uninventive and the film gets caught in between mature adaptation of Jane Austen and a trite everyday romantic comedy. Surprise, surprise, Wren’s ex, Owen Jasper reappears. He’s now running his own successful non-descript company and hires Wren’s company.

What the film does well is highlight the differences in generations. There’s a Gen X vs Millennials theme which doesn’t make fun of anybody, but is rather used to help Wren understand why she rejected Owen years ago but may be ready to accept him now. Her cat named Wentworth is the only clue Owen needs.

Wren has two junior marketing/social media execs on her team, Kate and Crystal. While some characters want to write them off as annoying assistants, Wren is always quick to say they do good work. She’s often confused by some of their thought processes and is exasperated by Kate’s obnoxious flirting, but she also understands they’ve been raised under very different influences. Wren represents many Gen X’s that were presented with a career or love life choice and had to fight back against that societal pressure that such an ultimatum doesn’t exist. Kate and Crystal, representing many Millennials, have never been told to make that choice. Life is just life and it can be whatever you make of it. It's a look at love in the generation gaps; an honest and thoughtful depiction of the differences.

The film is on the slow side, and there’s not a lot of humour, and given its origins from a classic novel and similarities to standard rom-coms, it is all very predictable, so entertainment value is limited. However, for fans of Jane Austen, and people looking for smart updates on the original themes, Modern Persuasion is an agreeable way to spend your time.