3 thoughts on “Mansfield Park (1999) short review

  1. I’m watching this during quarantine and wishing I had such a lovely home and park, if perhaps wishing for better company in it.

  2. I’ve also done a Jane Austen deep-dive during this time of illness and social upheaval. Jane Austen is my “happy place” I guess. That said, I just finished re-reading the novel and re-watching this movie. It was my first time re-encountering these works since the 90s. Originally, I disliked both the book and the movie. And 20 years later, I still dislike them both. Even so, I have a greater appreciation for them both, too. (Hooray for maturity, I guess.) I realize now that the book is good, it’s just that I’m not drawn in by the characters.

    This film was cast with very capable actors who do a good job with the material they were given, but the choices made in the screenplay are lacking. I agree with Kendra’s short review above that some of these choices were a mixed bag. Namely, I did not like what Kendra called the “spunkification” of Fanny. It definitely made her more interesting as a film character, but I felt that that choice was a betrayal of the character as written in the novel. The exploration of slavery as a topic was interesting, but I think it was clunkily executed. Of all the Jane Austen adaptations I’ve seen, this movie was the most faithful dialogue-wise–whole passages were quoted at a time–but because the primary spirit of the novel was betrayed by changing Fanny so drastically, the faithful dialogue seemed like a novelty. Costume-wise, the movie was a mix of right and wrong to my non-expert eyes. All of the costumes looked good, but some looked more early 1900s to me than early 1800s. This adaptation features other odd choices, too regarding the set design and the music.

    Getting back to the cast, pretty much everyone was well cast. Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, and Lindsey Duncan (as Mrs. Price, not as Lady Bertram) were the perfect embodiments of their respective characters. Frances O’Connor was very good as “screenplay Fanny” instead of “book Fanny,” but that’s not her fault. I felt that my beloved James Purefoy was severely underused, as Tom who is a more important figure in the book than in this movie. The only person who was miscast, in my opinion, was Embeth Davis as Maria Bertram. I like her as an actress, but she was all wrong for this role. It was fun to spot other actors who have since gone on to prominence and/or acclaim like Downton Abbey alums Hugh Bonneville and Charles Edwards (Edith’s lost love Michael Gregson); a young Sophia Myles; and a very young Anna Popplewell as Betsy. The biggest disappointment was the exclusion of Fanny’s beloved brother William. The decision to keep Susan instead of William seemed to be motivated as a device to develop the Fanny/Jane Austen hybrid character–between her storytelling and letter-writing to Susan back home rather than to William at sea.

    This has all been a very long way of saying, this is a strange, yet well-meaning adaptation of the novel. Overall I think it’s worth watching to satisfy your curiosity.

    1. Correction to my post: Embeth Davis played Mary Crawford, not Maria Bertram. She was totally miscast as Mary Crawford.

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