Mansfield Park

"Very Good"

Mansfield Park Review


What is it about Jane Austen? This box-office stalwart has inspired five major film adaptations in the '90s (six counting the excellent BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995).

I think I know what Austen's secret is: Her books are recent, but not modern. Her central characters have good manners and triumph over bad marriages or economic straits, instead of succumbing to their own vices or whining too much about their problems.

Mansfield Park is the last of Austen's major novels to be filmed recently, and I think it is usually considered Austen's weakest novel, though not too weak for cynical filmmakers to try to squeeze a bit more cash out of the writer's legacy.

Writer-director Patricia Rozema's cynicism comes out in other ways in this film, too. She transforms Austen's diffident, quiet heroine Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor) into a sassy, '90s, politically-aware attitude girl who shows up the fatuousness of most of the other characters. Only Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller), Fanny's true friend and ultimate love interest, meets her approval.

Worse, Rozema has embellished the tale with a subplot about the moral evisceration of Fanny's adopted family, the Bertrams, caused by the family's ties to slavery (based on a few brief references in the novel to family business in the West Indies).

The movie features one of the best casts in the Austen movie series: O'Connor is very good, Miller just as good, and Harold Pinter (he can act, too) does well in the revised, over-politicized role of Sir Thomas Bertram. Rozema's direction gives the polite, overwritten novel some needed sensuality.

Unfortunately, Rozema has also refracted the novel through a modern, unsubtle, feminist bias. The result is still better than the average '90s politically-correct sermonette, but definitely not a portal into a 19th-century brain (Being Jane Austen it isn't).

Austen's book is a study on virtues like "constancy," an un-modern concept which does not mean the same thing as monogamy, nor does it mean being "true to oneself," Thelma And Louise style. It means believing in certain moral values and being true to them even though others' conduct is not always good or bad. Some of this subtlety comes through in the film, but most of the characters are either too good (i.e. Fanny) or too bad (everyone else, especially Sir Thomas) to be realistic studies. The subplot about slavery is especially jarring, because it introduces something morally unambiguous into a story which is about tolerating shades of moral ambiguity.

The best dialogue in the film is in Austen's spirit, such as Fanny's observation that "Life is but a succession of busy nothings" or Edmund's wish for a "life of compassion and contemplation" (as a clergyman). But too much of the dialogue is the kind of blunt raving that would have made 19th-century families as dysfunctional as today's, except that they customarily kept it to themselves.

Many of Rozema's revisionist additions ring false, like making Fanny an aspiring writer (even if there were autobiographical elements in the original novel, I doubt that Jane Austen was the smartass that Fanny is portrayed as here) or having a character say things like "this is 1806, for Heaven's sake."

It was supposed to be 1806, but Mansfield Park the movie has a little too much 1999 in it --- naïve social criticism, bathos, and vulgarity. And judging from the popularity of Jane Austen adaptations, a lot of moviegoers are tired of movies that remind them of the present.

Still, they'll probably take any period drama they can get...

Austentatious.



Mansfield Park

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th November 1999

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: HAL Films, BBC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 16

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Mrs. Price/Lady Bertram, as Tom Bertram, as Mrs. Norris, as Sir Thomas Bertram, Victoria Hamilton as Maria Bertram Rushworth, as Mr. Rushworth, as Julia Bertram, as Mary Crawford, as Mr. Henry Crawford, as Susan "Susie" Price, as Edmund Bertram, as Fanny Price

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.