It’s hard to overstate just how bad Netflix is conviction is, and in how many ways.
As an imitation of the Netflix hit Bridgeton, conviction is a pale copy. While aiming for the candy-coated Regency pastiche Bridgeton fashionably made, it is too sure of its own virtues to revel in the fizziness it makes Bridgeton so satisfying. It apes Bridgeton‘s cheeky anachronisms (“A 5 in London is a 10 in Bath!”) as if their audiences should take them as revelations rather than weak jokes that are now beyond weary.
As a showcase for Dakota Johnson, it’s a disappointment. Johnson’s easygoing screen presence has been the redeeming factor for many bad films before this one, but in the lead role of Anne Elliot, it doesn’t brighten things up conviction while swinging on its emotional pendulum from grumpy to boring. Instead, she winks at the camera with her best Jim-from-.The office smirking as if to say, “Can’t we all agree that’s charming?” We’re not.
As an adaptation of Jane Austen conviction, It’s a disaster. While Austen’s original is devastating in its restraint, this film is broad in its humor, shallow in its emotion, and clumsy in its characterization. Unforgivably, it messes up one of Austen’s most romantic moments, subverting the iconic letter-writing scene until it has lost all internal logic and therefore all emotional power.
On its own, purely as a film, conviction is just bad. It is boring. It’s not romantic. It’s not funny. It’s not sad. There doesn’t seem to be a reason – and the reason why it finally lends itself is frankly an insult to everyone involved.
conviction, directed by Carrie Cracknell and written by Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, loosely follows the plot of Austen’s original. Rich, handsome and charming, Anne Elliot was once madly in love with the penniless young sailor Frederick Wentworth. They were engaged to be married. But Anne’s friends and relatives convinced her not to throw herself at 19 at a man with no money and few prospects, and it broke Wentworth’s heart.
When both novel and film begin, it’s eight years later. Anne never got over Wentworth, but she is now a spinster resigned to dedicating her life to caring for her sisters and her sister’s children. Wentworth has since become a captain in the Navy. He is now wealthy and respected, looking for a wife of his own and still angry at Anne for ending their relationship the way she did. And circumstances have conspired to make him a guest at her sister’s house, while Anne also resides there.
Austen’s Anne reacts to these circumstances as she reacts to most things: remaining as calm and composed as possible on the outside while being tormented on the inside. The tension between the social pressures Anne has to deal with and her deep emotional pain is part of what drives Austen conviction forward which makes it so heartbreaking to read.
Admittedly, this kind of inner division is difficult to dramatize on screen. Admittedly, the solution that Cracknell and her collaborators came up with is novel: they got rid of it entirely.
At Netflix conviction, Anne adopts the mannerisms of the heroine of a mid-range ’90s rom-com, crying in the bathtub, crying over copious amounts of red wine, crying when she accidentally pours gravy over her head. When she’s not crying, she’s either ambushing her relatives’ weaknesses at the camera or blurting out with non-sequiturs in awkward social situations. “Sometimes I have a dream that an octopus is sucking my face,” she tells a party.
Wentworth, on the other hand, has lost the polished charm and daredevil energy of its book counterpart. As played by Cosmo Jarvis, Wentworth is shy, thoughtful, and vague; a Darcy cyborg without the specialty. He gives a good look but no sign of anything behind it.
The film picks up briefly when Henry Golding arrives to play Mr. Elliot, Anne’s cousin and Wentworth’s rival for her heart. Golding is in pure, mustache-twirling villain mode (although Cracknell inexplicably left out the story arc where Mr. Elliot is actually revealed to be the villain). His presence adds a welcome boost of energy to the procedure.
Overall, there is a lack of energy here, which seems to be completely alien to the film. conviction goes on with the apparent assumption that all of its trendy anachronisms will bring musty old Austen to life. Where Austen, with her finely tuned sense of irony and social paradox, wrote: ‘Now they were like strangers; no, worse than strangers, because they could never get to know each other. It was an ongoing estrangement,” Cracknell paraphrases the line as painfully awkward: “Now we’re strangers. No, worse than strangers. We’re exes.” Then the camera pulls back to let you survey the result, as if this film had served you in the making conviction Make sense in the 21st century, just like clueless did Emma makes sense in the 20th century.
But the thing is Austen’s conviction already makes sense in the 21st century. (It does, by the way Emmaa fact of it clueless was fully aware of this.) Sure, the social codes that led Anne Elliot to cover up her own heartbreak have changed. But the emotions at the core of the novel – loneliness, longing, despair – breathe powerfully into the present.
adjustment Emma in clueless worked because its translation of Regency mores into a ’90s SoCal high school was playful and funny. clueless was not explain Emma for an audience too stupid to understand. It was fun with his audience.
convictionAttempting to transfer modern mores to Regency England just feels clumsy and condescending. It feels like the film thinks you’re too dumb to understand Jane Austen on your own, so it’s decided to give you a synopsis rather than try to bring her work to life.
In an indelible moment from Austen convictionWentworth tells Anne, “I’m half agony, half hope.” Netflix conviction it’s all agony