• Deborah Yaffe

Damage control

You’re a couple of weeks away from premiering your new movie. Your core audience has been vacuuming up every scrap of news about the production. Finally, the long-awaited YouTube trailer drops. And said core audience takes to social media to . . . vent their horror and outrage.


Oops. Now what?


Well, if you’re Carrie Cracknell, the director of next week’s Netflix adaptation of Persuasion, you grant IndieWire an interview designed to reassure appalled Janeites that you really! love! the book! Really, you do!


Cracknell “is a Jane Austen super-fan,” interviewer Kate Erbland reported last week, citing Cracknell’s repeat viewings of the iconic BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as evidence. So her feelings were hurt when Janeites started “ranting about the entirety of the film after seeing just two minutes and thirty-five seconds of glossy promotional material,” Erbland writes.


Since trailers are, by definition, tiny snippets of content designed to instill strong feelings about as-yet-unseen films, I find it a tad bemusing to hear of a moviemaker being shocked! shocked! at viewers’ temerity in jumping to conclusions about the entirety of a film after seeing just two minutes and thirty-five seconds of glossy promotional material. One suspects Cracknell would have been less appalled by viewers’ conclusion-jumping had it involved the opposite conclusion.


Still, Cracknell says many of the right things about the book, noting “the grownup longing and heartache and complexity of Anne’s journey,” the extent to which the Elliot family are “so bound up in their own narcissism that they can’t understand the jewel that’s sort of nestled in the midst of them,” and the way the novel “captures the essence of the fear we have of life passing us by.”


And then, lest we worry that the exaggerated comic bits showcased in the trailer imply a Persuasion swamped by inappropriate slapstick, we are granted an entire extra scene, clocking in at one minute and fifty-one seconds of still-sort-of-glossy promotional material.


It’s a quiet and thoughtful scene, so there is that.


It is also, however, a scene that has no counterpart in the book, featuring Anne talking with an intimate friend she doesn’t have (Henrietta? Louisa?), who is saying things that Austen’s version of the character wouldn’t say, based on observations that Austen's original wouldn’t have made.


I can’t say I’m reassured.

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