Mansfield Park (1999)
Director: Patricia Rozema
Cast: Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, et al.
My Review: Hey guys, remember when this movie came out? And everyone was really excited because finally a *woman* was going to direct an Austen adaptation? And it got good press because it had a hot, up-and-coming young cast? And then when it came out in theaters it got bad reviews because it took so many liberties with the source material?
Okay, technically I don't remember any of that... but that's what I've been reading on IMDB in preparation for reviewing this film. What can I say, I was in grade school when this came out, and just slightly too young to have gotten caught up in period pieces. Anyway, I find the responses to this film to be fascinating; you either love it or hate it. There is no in-between.
I'm not going to summarize this story because, really. Fanny Price is born poor, goes to live with rich relations, falls in love with her pseudo-brother, the end. I want to get to the good stuff (illustrated!).
Fanny, as played by Frances O'Connor, is judgmental, yes, and preachy, yes, and all the same stuff that we always complain about regarding the character, but overall I thought she did a decent job. She is *not* as prudish as the book character, so she had that going for her, as well. Jonny Lee Miller is adorable, of course. I heard that he will play Mr. Knightley in a new BBC adaptation of Emma to come out next year, and I think that could be excellent.
Let's get to Alessandro Nivola as Henry Crawford, the ne'er-do-well who almost steals Fanny's heart. The problem here is that he is TOO good in this role to make it believable that Fanny would choose Edmund over him. Edmund, destined to be a parson for... no discernable reason... is really harsh on everyone. Perhaps we're meant to believe that Fanny chooses Edmund because she doesn't think she deserves anyone different. Maybe she hates herself and wants to live a life of judging others and being judged. I don't know. All I know is that Austen (allegedly!) had wanted Fanny and Henry to get together, but someone who read an early draft of the novel basically told her Henry was "too good to be true," and suggested she make Fanny choose Edmund. So then Austen wrote in the little section where Henry and Maria run off together. In this movie, Fanny catches them in flagrante delicto before they run off, but still. I feel like, if I were a director, and I had a cast like Frances O'Connor and Alessandro Nivola, I would just change the ending. Actually, I would forget about an Austen adaptation and just make it a really awesome Regency romance. There, I said it.
Another thing people didn't like about this movie is how sexy it is. Ooo, yeah, check out that hand on the neck... for shame! How dare anyone introduce physicality into a romance!
I know the rebuttal is that Austen didn't write about it, but... I don't really care. People held hands, even in Regency times.
Oh my lord, what is that?!?
Aaaanyway, what I'm so sarcastically saying is that I actually enjoyed most of what Rozema "added" to the original Austen in this movie. It made it younger and fresher. There are still too many really boring, dry BBC adaptations out there, that this one stirred the pot in a nice way. I agree with the validity of the argument that it's not "true" Austen, but I will counter that with another... just because she didn't write about her characters kissing or anything of that sort, doesn't mean she didn't imagine them participating in those activities at some point in their lives. She also didn't talk about them going to the bathroom (and I bet you won't find any Regency writer who did), but you know that Regency people did, in fact, have to use the facilities at some point. They are human just like us.
So, enough ranting on that subject. I LIKE THIS MOVIE.
That is James Purefoy in the really, really tiny role of Tom Bertram, heir to Mansfield Park. He would go on to be Marc Antony in Rome and star in plenty of other great movies and shows. I just think the fact that he has approximately 3 lines and all of them are performed intoxicated is hilarious.
Visit the IMDB page for this movie
Buy this on DVD on Amazon