Until last weekend, I had never seen the esteemed 1995 film version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (one of her very best novels, in my opinion). I own and love the 2007 version, so I was curious to see how the 1995 version compared. Thus, the birth of this post.
While I am going to compare both versions regarding the two main characters, I have neither time nor space nor desire to compare every single character and all the scenery, costumes, etc., so I’m just going to explain what I like and don’t like about each film version and finally, reveal which version I prefer.
While she was perhaps a bit old for the part, I thought Amanda Root was wonderfully cast as Anne. She’s not overly pretty, but she’s pleasant to look at, something the 2007 version failed in (besides, Anne isn’t supposed to be a renowned beauty anyway). I love her big, innocent eyes, and her hairstyle is very becoming. Amanda portrays Anne’s confusion, misery, and sorrow very well, without being over-exaggerated. One thing I didn’t like about Amanda’s portrayal is how she behaves toward Wentworth after she learns of Lousia and Benwick’s engagement. She basically throws herself at Wentworth, running after him, begging for his attention and making sure he knows she’s interested. Such bold and forward behavior is not at all characteristic of Anne Elliot.
Sally Hawkins was a Major Casting Fail. Her acting and emotions were superb, but she is not Anne Elliot. Maybe I’m just shallow, but Sally Hawkins is far too unattractive for the role. Anne is supposed to regain her health and bloom after she’s back in Wentworth’s company, but I think Sally just keeps getting more unattractive as the movie progresses. And her hair is simply awful. I’ve never seen such gag-worthy styles. I think I would have enjoyed her performance much more if they had made her look prettier. But I do appreciate Sally’s raw emotion, especially at the proposal scene and The Magical Ending, which I will be getting to later.
(I’ll just go ahead and tell you now: I’m picky about how my Austen heroes are portrayed.)
I wasn’t particularly endeared to Ciaran Hinds’ portrayal of Wentworth. Frankly, he was too old and not near handsome enough. As far as acting goes, he did a good job, but he just wasn’t Wentworth to me. He did look the part of a sailor, though, and that pleased me. Also, Ciaran did do a creditable job in one scene I will be addressing in a moment.
Now, Rupert Penry-Jones, on the other hand… *Petie giggles uncontrollably* Rupert is MY Wentworth. He totally nailed this role. After I read the book, he was exactly what I imagined Wentworth to be. My one and only minor complaint with him is that he didn’t look weather-beaten enough, but when I stare into those staggeringly gorgeous blue eyes… I really don’t care. Rupert is the perfect age, the perfect look, the perfect everything for Wentworth. I adore his portrayal. He delivers the hard-core emotion that’s needed in all the right scenes, like when he and Anne meet for the first time (that little flicker of a glance in Anne’s direction…), his confusion and relief when he discovers Anne is not engaged to Mr. Elliot, and his utter joy and beaming smile at The Ending.
There were several things I particularly liked about the 1995 version. For one thing, Amanda Root grows prettier with every scene. You can visibly see the youthful bloom in her face only Wentworth can give her. One scene while they’re in Lyme, she stops in her room to look in a mirror, and she’s fairly glowing. I also appreciated the 1995 version remaining true to the book by having a montage of all the family members confiding in Anne. It was a small and humorous detail I was glad they added. Louisa Musgrove’s fall was very well done, meaning that they actually showed it; in the 2007 version, you could blink and miss it.
However, I must confess I disliked quite a few things in the 1995 version. First and foremost is that it moves very slowly. It seems like it takes forever for Wentworth to enter the story. Another thing is that save Anne and Wentworth, all the other characters are just gross. They are horrendously unattractive and not at all pleasant to look at. Mrs. Clay is downright repulsive, Elizabeth is vulgar and unrefined, the Musgroves are a sloppy-looking bunch, Mrs. Smith almost looks cross-eyed, and Mr. Elliot bears a strong resemblance to a slithering serpent. Even Lady Russell is kind of creepy. I’m not at all saying that everyone has to be beautiful, but there are certain characters that are supposed to be pretty and aren’t even close to it, and no one is pleasant.
Regarding the 2007, I have quite a list of things I love about it. At the top of that list, of course, is Rupert Penry-Jones. ‘Nuff said. The musical score for this version is just gorgeous; I wish I had sheet music for that piano theme. And as much as it plays during the movie, I never get tired of hearing it. It’s just stunning. I love the liveliness and energy of all the characters in this movie. Not everyone is beautiful, but they are pleasant-looking and jovial, the Musgroves especially. Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove are so cute! One little detail I positively adore about the 2007 version is when Wentworth persuades Anne to ride home with the Crofts in their carriage, and he lifts her up onto the seat. His attentiveness and her little gasp… gah, I just love it.
As much as I love about it, there are a few little things I’m not so crazy about in the 2007 version. I’m sorry, but Sally Hawkins is so terribly unattractive (and her hair! GACK with a capital “G”) that it’s almost hard to appreciate her portrayal. She and Rupert Penry-Jones are so mismatched. I mean, you have the Adorable Teddy Bear-ness that is Rupert Penry-Jones, and the girl he’s supposed to be madly in love with is worse than just plain. I know, I know, looks are not everything, but I think most of you out there get my drift.
It’s not a letter worthy of Darcy, but Persuasion has its own Big Letter. Wentworth writes a letter to Anne, spilling it all and practically begging her to marry him. “I am half agony, half hope…”
I adore the way the 1995 version handles the letter. Wentworth is actually writing it with Anne in the same room, and as she talks with Captain Harville about the constancy of a woman’s love, Wentworth can hardly keep his seat. He knocks things over and blots his ink. You can tell he’s just about to explode! He can’t wait a second longer. He and Harville leave the room, but then Wentworth returns, claiming he forgot his umbrella. As he walks toward the door, he lays his letter on the table and gives Anne a very desperate, this-is-for-you-please-read-it-before-I-die kind of look. Then he walks out. Anne anxiously reads the letter, and I love how they overlapped their voices, with Wentworth reading parts of it and Anne reading parts of it. Ciaran Hinds acted this scene brilliantly.
Though I don’t like it near as well as 1995, the 2007 version of the letter is also very good. Harville delivers the letter to Anne, and after perusing its contents, she commences into her Running Marathon Through the Whole City of Bath, while Wentworth’s words are racing through her head. That was a bit overdone, I think. As desperate and in love as she was, I find it hard to believe that the daughter of a baronet would fly through the streets of Bath like a wild banshee. But still, it adds a nice, passionate effect.
Which brings us to another topic…
One thing both versions had an Epic Fail on was The Eagerly Awaited Kiss. Neither version got it right.
In 1995, Anne rushes outside, practically bumping into Wentworth in the midst of a rather obnoxious and distracting street parade. Without saying anything, Wentworth takes her hand (and I’ll admit, seeing her tiny hand in his large, white-gloved one was just darling), and their lips just barely touch. Then, as if nothing had happened, they walk arm-in-arm down the street. I was left with my jaw dropped and wanting to scream, “Are you kidding me? Almost nine years of waiting, and THAT’S IT?”
But on the other hand, the 2007 version failed in a completely different way. After running like a maniac to and fro all over Bath (um… really?), Anne basically crashes into Wentworth, and amidst heavy breathing and a desperate look on her face, accepts his proposal. Wentworth smiles, and I melt. They come closer to each other…. I wait with baited breath, hoping for a kiss that’s good enough to be compared to the out-of-this-world kiss from North and South. Their faces are inches apart… and I wait… and wait… and wait. And finally, after a good thirty seconds, they kiss for about a nanosecond before it switches to the next scene. The first time I saw that scene, I was basically screaming at the TV, “Good grief, dude, JUST KISS HER! Don’t make her beg for it!” I mean, wow. That was way too drawn out and over-the-top. And then after all that waiting, we barely get any kiss at all.
So I’m still waiting for a film version of Persuasion to nail The Eagerly Awaited Kiss.
While the 1995 version owned the letter scene, 2007 owns the ending. 1995 was disappointingly anti-climatic. I liked that it took place on Wentworth’s ship, but other than that, it was a let-down. Wentworth and Anne look awkward standing side by side, not even holding hands or anything. Come on, people. They had waited and hoped for this day for almost nine years, and that’s all? I expect a bit more than that…
Enter the 2007 version. While it is unlikely that Wentworth would have actually been able to buy Kellynch Hall, it was a sweet and awwww-worthy element to the story. But anywho. Wentworth surprises Anne by purchasing her old home. He leads her blindfolded to the front lawn, uncovers her eyes, and grins at her delight. Anne is ecstatic. With a burst of laughter, she runs to Wentworth, and picking her up, he spins her around (gah, LOVE it when they do that in movies). They then commence into slow-dancing right there on the lawn (I always wonder what the carriage driver was thinking…), but not before they share The Most Darling Film Kiss Evah.
This is the kiss that melts me into a puddle. Why couldn’t they have made this kiss THE kiss? It’s so much sweeter and more beautiful than the whole let’s-linger-at-each-other’s-lips-for-thirty-seconds ordeal.
So now for the nagging question… which film version is my favorite? That’s easy.
The 1995 version had its good points, but in my mind, it cannot be compared to the beauty, splendor, The Magical Ending, and the Rupert Penry-Jones-ness contained in the 2007 version. Yes, I really do not like Sally Hawkins, but with everything else wonderful in that movie, I can endure her.
I would love for another filmmaker to have another go at Persuasion. Neither of these versions are perfect. A satisfactory version of Persuasion would be a hybrid of the two previous versions with a Brilliant, Heartwrenching Kiss, a Whimsical Ending, and The Perfect Anne. What I would REALLY love is for a director to redo Persuasion, still casting Rupert as Wentworth, but finding a much more suitable Anne. When she gets a bit older, I would love to see Mia Wasikowska play Anne.
I adored Mia in Jane Eyre, and when she’s older, she could totally nail the role. Of course, by the time she gets older, Rupert will probably be too old for Wentworth, so I’ll have to think of someone else for that role… But if any filmmakers are reading this and think, “Hey, Mia is a great pick!”, then please, just make her hairstyle attractive. Pwetty pweeze? That’s all I ask. Oh, and you might just wanna let me in on all the decisions on who to cast, what they should look like and such. I would make all Jane-Austenites and period drama lovers veddy, veddy happy.
(all photos courtesy of google images)
(p.s. ooh, burst of inspiration!! what say you to either Tom Hiddleston or Chris Evans for Wentworth? i think yes.)