Hold onto your bonnets, because this modern spin on Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion features ghosting advice, ‘goss’, sad faces drawn in letters – and lovesick heroine Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) as you’ve never seen her before.

It uses the familiar building blocks of the author’s tale of two lovers – Anne and Captain Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) – who meet again, seven years after she was ‘persuaded’ by her family to break off their engagement due to his lack of prospects.

However, director Carrie Cracknell, moving from stage to screen, may be building the same structure as Austen but she often opts to assemble it in an entirely different way, based off a screenplay by veteran Ron Bass and newcomer Alice Victoria Winslow.

Austen purists will likely froth at the mouth over some of the decisions made, especially in terms of the film’s casually anachronistic language, with direct Austen quotes merely peppered throughout.

The same goes for Johnson’s interpretation of Anne as clumsy and wine-guzzling, yet kind and courageous, as per the novel.

It’s a bold move, certainly best helped by approaching this Persuasion as more ‘inspired by’ then ‘based upon’ Austen’s words, in an effort to appeal to younger audiences.

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Previous descriptions of the ‘Fleabagification’ of Persuasion following the release of its trailer prove pretty accurate, with Anne at times seeming like a cross of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s famous creation and Bridget Jones.

She’s spikier and more flawed as she narrates her unfiltered thoughts to the audience, consistently breaking the fourth wall. This takes away some of the nuance of the character as she spells things out in a blunt way at odds with Austen’s style.

However, Johnson is winning in the role – whether it’s the interpretation you expected or not – showing off a light touch for comedy, from delivery and timing to physical slapstick.

For example, she takes the opportunity to relieve herself in the woods, before slipping in the pool of her own pee – make of that what you will.

The Fifty Shades of Grey star also mostly pulls off a convincing RP English accent, slipping on the odd sound but not enough to stop it being easy to forget that she’s American.

Jarvis makes for unexpected casting as naval officer Wentworth. The Calm with Horses actor is charmingly awkward and very sweet, a world away from previous characters he’s played. A pair of the saddest eyes in showbiz helps sell the sympathetic captain to the hilt, even if his chemistry with Johnson is sometimes a little lacking.

The diverse cast of Persuasion is stuffed with intriguing choices and stellar performances, including Richard E Grant as Anne’s vain and pre-occupied father, Sir Walter Elliot.

Grant looks to be having the time of his life playing such a plonker, as does Henry Golding, who shines as the smooth and witty but highly insincere William Elliot.

His flirting-cum-verbal-parrying with Johnson’s Anne is one of Persuasion’s highlights, as are Mia McKenna-Bruce as Anne’s frankly monstrous sister Mary and Nikki Amuka-Bird as a wonderfully sympathetic Lady Russell.

The movie’s main issue is its swing between the new comedy aspects it’s added and the aching, far more repressed romance of the novel.

That’s not to say Austen isn’t funny in her original material, of course: she tears into the tiresome Elliots (bar Anne) with glee and delightful bitchiness, and lots of what is characterised in the film in a more modern way can be found on the page.

It’s just a slightly unusual match between book and movie that doesn’t always work and is bound to divide fans. For every viewer cheering on an Austen adaptation doing something new and a bit exciting there’s another in need of smelling salts after it dares diverge from the well-trodden path.

Persuasion is in select UK cinemas now and streams on Netflix from July 15.

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