Film Review: MODERN PERSUASION (directed by Alex Appel & Jonathan Lisecki)

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by Tony Frankel on December 1, 2020

in Film


Especially in a year like 2020, we can always use Jane Austen to lighten our mood. Now, a modern film re-telling of her Persuasion, starring Alicia Witt, has been picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films. After so much negativity this year, I was far more capable of handling this low-budget cream puff of a movie. More fluffball than screwball, this modern-day Millennial rom-com has as a credited writer Jane Austin, but I’m guessing that co-scribes Barbara Radecki and co-director Jonathan Lisecki were responsible for the silliness. Single girl Wren Cosgrove (Witt) may talk too much to her cat, but she has worked her way up the corporate ladder at a PR firm. Her now-successful ex Owen Jasper (Shane McRae) hires the firm, complications ensue, and … well, you know Austen.

Even with some smart shots from DP Benjamin Rutkowski, directors Alex Appel & Mr. Lisecki aren’t really interested in creative shots (indeed, at one point the chick flick felt like a TV sit-com). And the casting is strange in that it’s tough to believe such mis-matched couples (and I’m not talking diversity here but chemistry), such as the head of the firm (Mark Moses as Grayson) openly seeing a brand-new receptionist (a fantastic Adrienne C. Moore, rising above her material).

Yet for all its inherent superficiality and odd coupling, I found myself chuckling aloud at moments of hilarity and cheap references (where Woody Allen mentions Ben Shawn drawings for effect, here it’s pop-star Adele). We also could have used an Eve Arden or two, so it’s surprising that comedy matron Bebe Neuwirth is given the more bedrock part of the well-meaning matronly aunt. OK, there are more groans than laughs, but I am slightly persuaded to recommend this if just to escape the real screwball soon to exit the White House.

stills courtesy Samuel Goldwyn Films

Modern Persuasion
Samuel Goldwyn Films
U.S.A. | romantic comedy | 87 min | 2020
released for streaming Nov 17, 2020
on VOD/digital Dec 18, 2020

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