Modern Persuasion Image

Based on Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, which was published after her death, Modern Persuasion attempts to tell a contemporary version of Austen’s most beguiling theme of love lost and found. This modern-day version, a simple romantic comedy, introduces the overachieving, workaholic Wren Cosgrove (Alicia Witt), who isn’t fulfilled by her day-to-day existence, with only her cat, Wentworth, representing life beyond her New York City office. The successful PR woman’s devoted Aunt Vanessa (Bebe Neuwirth) is set on finding Wren a man of her choosing.

Cupid is constantly at work for Wren, even though the arrows most often miss. But love does come calling from the past in the form of an ex-lover, Owen Jasper (Shane McRae), who brings his business to Wren’s firm and eventually claims his devotion to Wren, but not without some issues along the way.

I did wonder what Jane Austen might have thought about this rendition because it definitely pushes boundaries, but in offbeat ways. I think she would have liked the animated opening and credits and Wren’s clever responses at all times. I also believe she would have enjoyed the snarky and sassy co-workers and their impeccable timing. However, co-directors Alex Appel and Jonathan Lisecki’s (who wrote this with Barbara Radecki) commitment to diversity seems a bit forced, as does some of the acting. This odd-ball crew of co-workers and their storylines all seem to be cast for more diversity than story support. I also believe Jane would have enjoyed the reinvention of a few of her characters and their street cred because they do deliver some good comedy when it comes to their social influencing. But, Modern Persuasion, on the whole, is a bit lackluster and too worried about being risqué even though it has all the trappings of a traditional rom-com.

“Cupid is constantly at work for Wren, even though the arrows most often miss.”

What would have been an overblown drama for just about anyone is Wren forgetting her luggage on the Hampton Jitney, forcing her to wear her co-worker’s itty bitty revealing clothing throughout the weekend. It didn’t really feel so Hamptons, especially for what was supposed to be the drunk hook-up incident at the beach. But I really didn’t see the beach and wonder if they were really there at all, not to mention the Hamptons. And the hook-up and its outcome were so overplayed that it fell flat. Jane Austen would have devoted an entire, intense chapter to this misfortune, but the drama was fleeting, only adding attention to the oddness that already exists throughout the film.

Toward the end of Modern Persuasion, there is a most impressive kiss Wren receives from a British suitor, which Owen sees on the big screen at his company’s launch party put on by Wren. Only, given the outright openness and acceptance of all things in this movie, especially with relationships and people, there was little stigma behind it.

Almost all of the male characters in Modern Persuasion, except for the Brit, have little appeal and even lower energy than the women. The ladies of the film are at least charged up and get all the incredible dialogue and drama. If the men had a little more excitement, especially Owen, the movie could pass for a decent 21st century Austen remake, but I think it falls a bit short and will find a happy home in front of tweens and on the Hallmark channel—which is not half bad.

Modern Persuasion (2020)

Directed: Alex Appel, Jonathan Lisecki

Written: Jonathan Lisecki, Barbara Radecki

Starring: Alicia Witt, Bebe Neuwirth, Daniella Pineda, Liza Lapira, Mark Moses, Li Jun Li, Dominic Rains, Shane McRae, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Modern Persuasion Image

"…attempts to tell a contemporary version of Austen’s most beguiling theme of love lost and found."

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