At 10, Fanny Price, a poor relation, goes to live at Mansfield Park, the estate of her aunt's husband, Sir Thomas. Clever, studious, and a writer with an ironic imagination and fine moral ... See full summary »
At 10, Fanny Price, a poor relation, goes to live at Mansfield Park, the estate of her aunt's husband, Sir Thomas. Clever, studious, and a writer with an ironic imagination and fine moral compass, she becomes especially close to Edmund, Thomas's younger son. Fanny is soon possessed of beauty as well as a keen mind and comes to the attention of a neighbor, Henry Crawford. Thomas promotes this match, but to his displeasure, Fanny has a mind of her own, asking Henry to prove himself worthy. As Edmund courts Henry's sister and as light shines on the link between Thomas's fortunes and New World slavery, Fanny must assess Henry's character and assert her heart as well as her wit. Written by
Excellent film inspired by rather than adapted from Austen's work
Director Rozema does for film what Austen does for the novel. In place of Austen's beautiful prose, Rozema's Mansfield Park delivers delicately crafted performances, heartbreakingly poetic cinematography, and a haunting score by Lesley Barber, but still manages to capture Austen's wit throughout.
Frances O'Connor and Jonny Lee Miller (as Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram) carry the film with their subtlety and chemistry, and a few scenes between the two are enough to deem the film a masterpiece. But they are not the only merits: the supporting cast breathe dimensionality to their characters with interesting interpretations of Austen's work. Most notable are Lindsay Duncan in her dual roles as Mrs Price and Mrs Bertram, and Victoria Hamilton as an intensely human Maria. Sophia Myles and Justine Waddell display equal genius albeit within the limitations of somewhat small roles. It is more difficult to gauge the performances of Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz; their characters are too affected by choices made in the script (arguably, Henry Crawford for the better and Mary Crawford for the worse).
One can be a fan of Jane Austen and still appreciate the film. Although it bears little resemblance to the novel itself, it embodies much of the spirit of Austen and draws from her other novels where Mansfield Park the novel might be, dare I say, lacking. I am an ardent supporter of Austen, but I must say that the film version makes a commendable choice in choosing a protagonist that shares more of Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennett's spirit than the subdued Fanny of Mansfield Park.
The film does, of course, have its flaws. The slavery issue is treated in a manner too heavy-handed to blend with Austen's style, and the same can be said of the hints of lesbianism that are just painfully out of place. The sexual tension is often a touch too overbearing in the film, although I agree with Rozema in saying that the film does not create this sexuality anew but draws from the tension latent in the novel (with the exception of the above-mentioned lesbianism). Other disappointments include Sir Bertram and Tom Bertram, who are practically caricatures that mar the otherwise brilliant characterization in the film.
Regardless, the film's high points far outweigh its imperfections -- all in all, highly recommended.
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