There a lot of bad literary adaptations out there. But, honestly, I don’t think anything comes close to the horror that is Patricia Rozema’s version of Mansfield Park. Rozema, despite hating the book and the character of Fanny Price, decided to make a movie out of it. One may ask why someone who hates a certain book would choose to write and direct a movie version of that book. Rozema apparently felt she could improve on Austen’s story and characters, choosing to base the screenplay not only on the novel but on Austen’s life. She also probably hoped to cash in on the Austen mania of the 90s, but failed big time. This killed the Austen adaptations until 2005’s P&P.
This adaptation of Mansfield Park is BEYOND TERRIBLE. It went beyond Andrew Davies levels of sexing up. Many of the characters were unrecognizable from their book counterparts. Slavery was made a main focus (????). Rozema’s direction was bizarre. The cinematography was full of nauseating, blurry, slow motion shots that made me dizzy.
I will say that the majority of actors were good with the material they were given. The problem is, that material was beyond crap!
Note- Sorry if the pictures look weird. No matter how many times I resize them, they end up bigger in the final product. It was seriously annoying to keep trying to fix it with no success so I gave up!
Note again- I went back and changed the format of the pictures so they’re all centered. And of course, now they stay the size I wanted. WHAT GIVES?
Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price
Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!! Her character was changed to be a combination of a feisty, lively, athletic (!) Elizabeth Bennet, and Jane Austen herself. She writes stories to her sister Susan (William is omitted entirely). She does not want to have a coming out ball because she likens it to being sold off as another of Sir Thomas’ slaves. As if all of this were not mind-boggling enough, she actually ACCEPTS HENRY CRAWFORD’S PROPOSAL!!!! WTF??? Rozema did this to parallel Austen accepting Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal only to change her mind the next day. But, seriously, it was just beyond wrong.
Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram
He wasn’t bad, actually. Unfortunately both Fanny and Mary were played by actresses at least ten years too old so he really looked like a baby next to them. And why was he wearing lipstick?
Embeth Davidtz as Mary Crawford
Well, she could have been okay if she had been a little younger. Rozema sexes her up a little too much, even going so far as to include lesbian undertones between her and Fanny in one scene! Also, Edmund’s wake-up call at the end as to her true character, is done in front of the whole family. She actually hushes Sir Thomas and implies she hopes Tom will die so Edmund will inherit the baronetcy to everyone, instead of in a letter to Fanny. That was just going too far, even for her.
Alessandro Nivola as Henry Crawford
He was okay, but actually seemed more of a victim to me than in the book. He and Fanny were getting on pretty well together and she really seemed happy and sure of herself when she accepted his proposal. I even felt bad for him when she changed her mind the next day. Another stupid move on Rozema’s part is having his and Maria’s “folly” take place at Mansfield Park, with the door unlocked, no less!
It’s making me angry even as I write this. I had planned to take screencaptures of more of the characters and scenes but I got so frustrated I ended up skipping through many parts. Sir Thomas Bertram is portrayed even worse than in the book, where he is a very strict, bordering on autocratic father figure who learns his lesson in the end. Here he is also a lecherous old man who rapes his slaves. Due to this, his son Tom is merely troubled and his reckless behavior is his way of coping with this depression. Lady Bertram is a laudanum addict. Mrs. Norris is okay but not menacing enough. Mr. Rushworth is decent. The Grants are mentioned only in passing. The Trip to Sotherton is omitted. Julia is much prettier than Maria, who resembled a mouse (sorry to Victoria Hamilton, but it’s true, especially next to Justine Waddell). That’s one of the minor gripes, however.
Fanny and Henry Kissing
Lady Bertram and Her Opium
I could go on and on for days but in an effort to restore my sanity, I’ll have to stop here. One thing I did like was having the same actress play Lady Bertram and Mrs. Price. And the scene where Mr. Norris dies and Mrs. Norris rings for the butler as if it’s only a mild annoyance was funny. But that was hardly enough to save this travesty. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t watch the movie at all. Just consider yourself warned. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, the novel, or the character of Fanny Price, you will most likely be appalled. Are there any fans of the book out there who actually like this movie????
My Rating: 2/10