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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 Stephen Groenewegen

5 stars

When Patricia Rozema's adaptation of Mansfield Park was released, Jane Austen purists cried "blasphemy!". Mansfield Park is one of Austen's best-loved novels, possibly because slogging through it to the end brings a real sense of achievement. Rozema has absorbed the book thoroughly, and reproduces its essence on screen beautifully.

The hero is poor Fanny Price, who is sent to live at Mansfield Park, as an act of charity by her upper middle-class relatives. Her Uncle Bertram (playwright Harold Pinter) has two sons and two daughters. The daughters (perfect turns by Justine Waddell and Victoria Hamilton) are foolish and greedy, the eldest son Tom (James Purefoy) is not much better. But the painfully shy Fanny (Frances O'Connor) is befriended by second son Edmund (a dashing Jonny Lee Miller). After we see Fanny arrive at the intimidating Mansfield Park as a youngster, the story flashes forward to a time when the children are all of marrying age (Austen's regular pre-occupation), and the arrival of the conveniently unattached brother-sister pair of Henry and Mary Crawford (Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz).

I was thrilled to see Frances O'Connor, in her first Hollywood role, given the plum part of Fanny Price. She's guaranteed to win over the audience. Although Rozema's partly based her conception of Fanny on the diaries and early writings of Austen, it's not such a radical departure from the book. It allows Fanny to be a lively narrator and commentator on unfolding events, and comes close to how Austen herself surely conceived Fanny - shy in company, but nowhere near as reserved by herself or with people she cares about (like Edmund). O'Connor's ability to light up the screen in an instant, with a look or her infectious smile, makes Fanny always endearing and the slights of the petty Mrs Norris (an excellent Sheila Gish) unbearable.

Rozema takes other liberties with the book. Fanny openly criticises her uncle for trading in slaves, and Rozema reworks the ending so that incidents and character revelations occur on-screen, at Mansfield Park (not away in London, or only revealed through letters). But most of her changes are simply to make the material more cinematic. Christopher Hobbs' production design of Mansfield Park - cold, empty rooms with high ceilings, not the usual perfectly decorated stately home - speaks volumes about the characters. Lesley Barber's score is perfectly in tune with Rozema's whirling camera and the spirited cast.

There's a few false notes (the inelegant line about what year it is, for instance), but Rozema should be praised for making Mansfield Park live and breathe on screen. This isn't stuffy or worthy costume drama, it's loads of fun. I'd love to see what Rozema could do with Shakespeare.

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originally posted: 05/15/00 08:52:42
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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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