Unlike filmmakers who dress up Austen's money-driven world in sweetness and light, Rozema rubs our noses in the fact that the Bertrams' wealth flows from the blood and sweat of faraway slaves. The adaptation never euphemises the down-and-dirty slum life which has swallowed up Fanny's mother and threatens Fanny if she refuses to marry the handsome but hollow fortune hunter (Alessandro Nivola) chosen for her by her benefactors. Playwright Harold Pinter is compelling as Mansfield Park's patriarch, Sir Thomas Bertram, capable of kindness but stone-cold when his aristocratic will is crossed. Embeth Davidtz (playing Mary, the amoral sibling of Fanny's suitor, with wonderfully seductive verve) and O'Connor almost resemble each other--and they are sisters of a sort, each vying, according to her talents, in a stock market where women must parlay sex to stay alive. In this entertaining ride in the socioeconomic fast lane circa 1806, Jane Austen comes across as a full-blooded proto-feminist with savvy charm.--Kathleen Murphy, Amazon.com
Slavery, and the abolition of it, was becoming the 'hot issue' of the day, but formed no part of the novel. The Bertram's fortune may have derived in part from their use of slaves, but the dawning realisation it might be wrong was an intellectual movement which can best be compared to our present-day moralistic attitude to bombs and war, i.e. it was still unquestioningly accepted by the old school as the way things had always been done. That a mere coachman should voice an opinion is as ridiculous as putting the burden of conscience on the shoulders of Tom Bertram, who's only interest was that the money should continue to flow in, from whatever source: he would have been up there raping and abusing with the best of them.
Mrs. Norris, like Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Bennett before her, and Miss. Bates after her, is one of Jane Austen's outstandingly vocal portrayals; here, however, she might as well have been axed, being given little to say, and that little so badly written as to challenge the acting powers of a Dame Maggie (who would not, incidentally, have been a bad alternative). Fanny's brother William heads the axe list, which only serves to illustrate how completely the writers have failed to understand the complex weave of the original; his promotion at the hands of Mr. Crawford having been the main reason for Fanny weakening in her resolve against him. This said, she at NO POINT weakened to the point of accepting his attentions, and Mr. Crawford's fancying himself attracted to her was almost entirely due to her steadfast refusal of him and consequent unattainability, as an obstacle to be overcome. The fact that Jane Austen herself DID become engaged, only to back out of it 12 hours later, together with some of her earlier juvenile writings, have been grafted onto Fanny with a view to spicing her up, but the end result is a Fanny as unlike the heroine of the novel as can well be. Fanny NEVER grew to be comfortable with her relations, and was always scared to death of her uncle and was always adverse to 'putting herself forward'. Incidentally, there is NOTHING autobiographical about MP, save the naval brother(s) and the present of the amber cross, which, of course, are deleted from the film, making a total nonsense of the gold chain sequence with Miss. Crawford, which seems to have been retained only in order to introduce a gratuitous allusion to lesbianism, wet blouse and all.....!!
The Grants at the Parsonage are also axe victims, so we have no idea why the Crawfords are even there; the principal houses were transposed, MP actually being the 'new' and Sotherton being the 'ancestral'; the Bertrams were going through a phase of 'belt-tightening' because of Tom's extravagance, but were still relatively wealthy, not within a inch of having to sell up, as portrayed here. The preposterous scene with the fireworks and doves occupied time and (undoubtably) money that should have been better spent bringing information thought less important to the audience. Huge chunks of the novel are missing, which only goes to underline the folly of 'adapting' a long and complex work when you have neither the time nor the money to do it anything like justice.
Francis O'Connor did the best she could with what she was given; Harold Pinter's Mr. Bertram is credible, as is Embeth Davidtz and Allesandro Nivola as the Crawfords; and Jonny Lee Millar is perhaps the most convincing (and authentic) of the bunch as the younger Bertram son.
A final word to Miramax. The jaunty, tongue-in-cheek approach worked well with Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma, but that doesn't mean all of Jane Austen can be treated the same way; that was a one-off.
Mansfield Park is perhaps the most complex of Austen's novels, and certainly one than many readers have difficultly with. The hero and heroine are solid and worthy, but there are those who miss the sparkle of an Emma or a Lizzie Bennet. Nevertheless, it reamins my favourite work.
Without wishing to condemn this as a bad 'film' as it was well done in many respects, I still fail to understand why someone would chose to adapt a classic text, and then change virtually everything about it! Fanny Price is here unrecognisable from Austen's gentle tower of moral strength! If she's wanted to do Lizzy or Emma again I'm sure Austen was quite capable! Romenza has her heroine acting in ways that would make any Regency Lady blush! I'm guessing Jane Austen was just used to sell this film - and this unfortunately put a stop to other adaptations in the pipeline (a new Northanger Abbey for one!).
The classic BBC series with Anna Massey is far superior, if you're looking for something that resembles Austen's novel!
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions