Director: Adrian Shergold

“Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
A one-man woman looking for
The man that got away…”

- Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away”

Kicking off their Jane Austen series of new adaptations with a more contemporary female host in Gillian Anderson, PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre has never felt as vibrant as it does with the 2008 release of Persuasion directed by Adrian Shergold. There were glimpses of modern brilliance of course with the release of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (incidentally penned by Persuasion scripter Simon Burke) and last year with the gorgeous and surprisingly sensual Jane Eyre, but if the latest Persuasion is any sign of things to come, PBS has become the network to watch during the influx of reality shows on other channels to counter the writer’s strike.
With a trio of stars who have appeared in the three UK films made by Woody Allen such as Persuasion’s star Sally Hawkins (who earned a “Golden Nymph” award for her portrayal in this and impressed me greatly in Cassandra’s Dream), our dashing leading man Rupert Penry Jones (Match Point) and Anthony Head (Scoop) as our heroine’s father, we jump right into the storyline which follows young Anne Elliot who has a second chance at true love when “the man that got away” returns. As a teen, Anne (Hawkins) fell for the handsome Wentworth (Jones) but persuaded by her pompous, elitist father (Head) and others that the penniless chap was beneath her station, she ended their relationship and now at the spinster age--at least in Austen’s times-- of twenty-seven, Wentworth returns now wealthy, polished and more handsome than ever following a successful career in the navy that has dubbed him Captain Wentworth. Of course, the rules of polite society dictate the way that a young woman is meant to behave and, as is the fashion of Austen, there are misunderstandings, heartaches and other characters who serve as complications and foils until Anne and Wentworth have a chance to reunite.
Fast-paced and clocking in at roughly ninety minutes, the film feels less stuffy than other Austen adaptations thanks to the digital, handheld camerawork which adds to the sense of immediate intimacy that viewers feel from the start. A wonderful way to kick off the other Masterpiece Theatre Austen productions, Persuasion is a must for Austen devotees. Don’t let this be the DVD that gets away!

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