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Mansfield Park (1999)
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This is a very modern Mansfield Park, regardless of the early 19th century setting. Viewers are caught up in a tale of the evils of slavery and the value of women's scholarship. Not exactly the focus of the novel!
There are some redeeming features. The costuming is beautiful; Mr. Rushworth, Julia, and Maria are gratifyingly self-absorbed and absurd; the differences between the Price and Bertram households are well-drawn. Austen fans will enjoy quotes from Fanny's writing: they are taken from the early stories of Austen herself.
However, the makers of this movie have made Fanny Price a very different sort of creature from the novel. Blooming and beautiful, sometimes sharp-tongued, she has little in common with the character in the novel.
The director has chosen to introduce elements not present in the novel. Sir Thomas, for example, due to a family business in trading slaves (never mentioned in the original), has gone from a dignified, rather stuffy but honorable man in the novel, to a degraded and rather disturbing man in the film. In the movie, he looks Fanny up and down as if she is a slave for sale, and arranges the famous ball of the novel as a way of "selling" her in marriage. And having brought in the anti-slavery subplot, the director simply dismisses it at the end, saying "Sir Thomas eventually gave up his interests in Antigua."
Sharply lacking is any of the satiric eye Austen cast on society. We are given the melodrama, but little of Austen's sharp wit.Read more ›
Well, as an adaptaion, the film only merits two at best. But taken by itself and judged as a movie, I have to admit it's quite entertaining. While not the Fanny of the book, as played by Frances O'Conner the Fanny of the film is extremely likable. Embeth Davidtz and the very appealing Alessandro Nivola have a lot of fun with their characters; Nivola in particular capturing the mixture of sleaziness and vulnerablity that makes the womanizing Henry Crawford ever so slightly attractive. The visuals are sumptuous, and the dialogue is laced with Austen's unique wit, much of it not in the novel. My only real problems with the film are with the slavery subplot (icky and distracting) and Johnny Lee Miller as Fanny's true love. Changing the chracters personalities also changes their motivations, and the actions of Edward, while making sense in the book, are not logical in the film. As a result, Miller's Edward comes off as wimpy and indecisive and detracts from the story.
Other than these two quibbles, I quite like this little movie. You are more likely to enjoy it, I think, if you aren't comparing it to the novel the entire time, as it really has very little to do with Austen's story. Taken as a straight period film, though, "Mansfield Park" is an enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Not only is O'Connor's characterization not Austen's Fanny Price, this movie is not Austen's "Mansfield Park". Patricia Rozema took some appalling liberties with Austen's book; here we have Lady Bertram as an opium addict, which is supposed to explain her perpetual indolence; Sir Thomas is Simon Legree redux, and Edmund, who at least had some personality in the BBC version, albeit a moralizing, sanctimonious snob, is little more than a cypher in this film. And Mary Crawford, depicted by Austen as a kind, generous, sympathetic character, is shown here as nothing more than a conniving little gold-digger.
Austen tiptoed around the fact that the Bertram family's fortune came from the blood and toil of the slaves on the family's plantation in Antigua; Rozema shoves it right in the viewer's face with graphic images of Sir Thomas raping and abusing the hapless slaves. Austen was well aware that the slave trade was an abomination, but she didn't go into it in her book, and it doesn't belong in any movie that purports to be based on the book.
Taken on its own, the film is a fairly enjoyable period piece, and Frances O'Connor is a winning heroine; but no way in the world does this movie deserve the title of "Mansfield Park".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
We started to watch but did not finish. The heroine is too sweet, the nasty sisters overdrawn. The soliloquies by the heroine didn't quite seem to fit in with the flow of the... Read morePublished 4 days ago by P. Coleman
Parts of this I liked, but certain things were off putting. I really didn't like how Fanny would turn to the camera and talk directly to the audience. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Katarina Andryovsky
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