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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.63%
Average: 32.56%
Pretty Bad: 13.95%
Total Crap: 2.33%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Mansfield Park
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Everything down to the costumes were dreary...Austen fans only!"
2 stars

Naturally "Mansfield Park" will have a source of two interest groups, stemming from the actual Jane Austen fans, and then the followers of period pieces. I find myself in the latter category, but even so, there is nothing this movie can do or try to do to clear itself up. As I don't often refer to period films as, "Mansfield Park" is unperfectly stuffy.

Fanny is a poor girl from a poor family. Her mother's sister however is quite well off, so at the age of about 10, she's shipped off to live with her aunt as an apprentice. Naturally she's the ugly duckling, and the only friend she has is her cousin Edmund Bertram. Following the Ugly Duckling Syndrome, Fanny blossoms out to become the [supposedly] beautiful Frances O'Connor (not my taste), and Edmund ends up more well off as Jonny Lee Miller. Throughout all this muck, the main concept going on is trying to get everyone married off. Like usual, it's obvious to us that Edmund and Fanny should be together, but of course for those two, they're totally oblivious to it. And long passages ensue when a supposedly hunky and well-off gentleman, Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) comes a knockin' for the fair hand of Fanny, but can never quite seem to get it. (One of the few entertaining scenes included a ball in honor of Fanny where she and Henry danced. She complimented his dancing, he got excited and the line went something like this: "I complimented you on your dance Mr Crawford, keep your wig on!")

To me, all this became endlessly tiring. I mean, I never read any of the novel and I knew how it was going to end. The story's been done millions of times, but just without the Austen banner across it. Personally, I'm no fan of hers, but am not quick to judge not having read any of her novels (actually I tried to read "Persuasion," but lost interest after 6 pages).

So as a disclaimer, to all those lovers of Jane Austen's novels, I'm sure this will be quite up their alley. But when I think of a good period piece, films like "Portriat of a Lady," "The Piano," "Elizabeth," "The Elepahnt Man," or even a more recent one, "The Legend of 1900" come to mind. Directors like Jane Champion, Shekhar Kapur, and David Lynch make the most of exploring and presenting the expressed ideas on screen. Here, director Patricia Rozema does nothing to enhance the quality or increase the sense of interest; it's just set out there with hopes of gathering allocades and acclaim from critics. It just feels like Rozema didn't put any heart into it. It's a terrible stereotype, but people automatically assume that just because it's a period piece that it will take up all the awards.

Maybe the biggest problem for non-Austen fans, and other period movies in general when they're comedies, is that the humor doesn't translate very well to audiences nowadays. The scholars of past eras and Austen erudites are sure to pick up on the humor, being familiar with the context in which it is used, but otherwise, the translation is lost. Most period comedies don't go over well, with maybe the exception of the built in niche it has for the person's work it is. With the reasoning lost, it just flounders. Even the adaptation of the novel, done as well by Rozema, seems to have lost a lot going from novel to pen. The snappy banter has lost its bite.

The performances are presentable, if not a little dull and dreary. Frances O'Connor, who looks like a distant relative of Minnie Driver, seems miscast. The Fanny Price they speak about and we imagine clashes to much with the one they give us. The better performances come from Embeth Davidtz and Jonny Lee Miller. Davidtz seems to transition well between roles, whether more child orientated performances ("Matilda") or more adult directed ones ("The Gingerbread Man," "Schindler's List"). Lee Miller as well has rounded track, adjusting and fitting roles fluctuating between the "acid" '90s ("Hackers") to contemporary times ("Afterglow"), and other good character performances like in "Trainspotting."

With "Mansfield Park," it was like a half-hearted try. Elements were in place as far as peformances and some technicalities go, but without the support of Austen fans, it would probably be agreed that there wasn't enough put into this film to take anything out.

Final Verdict: D+

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originally posted: 11/29/99 11:34:23
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User Comments

3/02/08 Pamela White English drama cute 4 stars
5/20/05 The Mockingbird hard to judge when a true fan of the book, but the fact that i cant condemn it totally... 3 stars
5/20/04 jcjs engaging, long winded, Fanny chicken to act and confused, nice acting 4 stars
12/30/02 Tam First-rate screenplay & strong performances make this Austen adaptation glow. 5 stars
8/13/02 R.W. Welch Overtly spiced up in spots but generally polished production. 4 stars
10/02/01 willi`c riveting , holds your attension throughout, with a musical score to match the atmosphere. 5 stars
7/23/01 Eth'mae Great interpretation of novel and authour's life. Get over it, purists! 5 stars
6/09/01 Matthias Hey bitch slap boy, Mama got your collar on too tight? Not enough air to the brain? 5 stars
4/30/00 Paul Jeffrey All praise to Allah that the Poms made this one, and not the Yanks ! 4 stars
1/05/00 R Lingner Pretty boring and really annoying if you've read the book. That was a lesbo scene?? 1 stars
1/04/00 jane Myles Lovely to look at; turned Austen's worst book to a delight; and funny too! 5 stars
11/30/99 Heather Really good adaption, though I much prefer the much superior Persuasion of 1995 4 stars
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  12-Nov-1999 (PG-13)



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