Mansfield Park 1999 Review

8 Nov

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

10 Responses to “Mansfield Park 1999 Review”

  1. Julie November 13, 2010 at 11:28 PM #

    “Are there any fans of the book out there who actually like this movie????”

    You know how I feel about it…


    • Mimms May 11, 2013 at 4:14 PM #

      It is a very clever sdaptation. The slavery under story is neatly woven in and give credibility to the darkly menacing character of Thomas Bertram, played so beautifully by Harold Pinter. Lindsay Duncan is magnificent in her agile portrayal of the two sisters who have fallen into totally different financial ciircumstances. The top story of the way in which women’s lives were dictated by their fear of falling out of a social class, Jane Austen would still recognise if she could see the film or read the screen play, and I date say she’d be pleased to see this rather clever little experiment grow out of her work.

  2. Lou At Myloubook's May 6, 2012 at 4:35 AM #

    I’ve just watched this movie after reading the book, I’m afraid to say it’s really, really disappointing !!

  3. drush76 September 7, 2012 at 6:18 PM #

    All three versions are flawed to me. My main problem with all three adaptations is that I find the “triumph” of Fanny over Mary Crawford a joke. Mary is far from perfect, but she’s not a monster. I can say the same about Fanny. But none of the adaptations were willing to reveal Fanny’s flaws.

  4. Kate May 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM #

    I am a fan of the book and the movie. Perhaps Margaret Drabble’s analysis of the book will help put this movie in context. She speaks of the book as one of the most personal of Austen’s career. Specifically, she talks about the choices Austen now feels forced to acknowledge from her new vantage point as an “old maid” in her thirties (when “Mansfield Park” was written). Simply, the choice Austen describes is between wit and wisdom. Fanny was always meant to be a problematic heroine and Mary a problematic anti-heroine. Between them, they made the perfect woman. But the material point is that Fanny, as written, would have made an irredeemably boring and unsympathetic screen presence, akin to the cringing Melanie in “Gone With the Wind.” So, Rozema made the smart cinematic choice of filming a loose adaptation of the book, adding a liberal dose of Jane Austen herself to the character of Fanny to make her more watchable and relatable. While I don’t agree with all of the director’s choices (e.g., to make Sir Thomas a lecher and slaveowner), there is no denying that the film is beautiful, intelligent, entertaining, and though-provoking. To enjoy it, you must let go of your desire / expectation of seeing an adaptation of “Mansfield Park” and instead let the film stand alone. While the film does not adequately represent the choice Austen was struggling to bring to life in the book (between wit and wisdom), when watching the very last scene, one does wonder how the film’s Fanny (far more like Mary Crawford than Edmund Bertram) will avoid being bored with her new husband.

    • marspeach June 7, 2013 at 7:50 AM #

      I guess I just feel that if Rozema hated the book so much she should have made a different movie, rather than try to cash in on the Austen Mania of the 90s. I just could not like this film.

  5. simplystated September 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM #

    I just saw this movie on Netflix and I am really sorry it wasted so much of my time. I did not take to Franny’s character at all, I never saw the chemistry between her and Edmund, and I was bored at the slow heavy pace of the whole movie. I could see Henry going with that other woman, I never saw anything intelligent or witty about Franny. She spoke up at the very end when Mary, was uncharacteristically too blunt ( Mary seemed too subtle and smart to ever make an obvious faux pas like announcing her intentions to the family) revealing her true intentions. Otherwise Franny offered no wit or charm that I could see. Then at the very end, it turned lighthearted but it was much too late to save this tired movie.

  6. Olivia Giles November 5, 2013 at 1:09 AM #

    The only redeeming moment in this entire movie was seeing how regency people bonk, and only because Henry was such a honey.
    The film maker obviously read a completely different book to the Mansfield park I did.
    Jane Austen’s world is seen through her eyes and that is why there are no wet shirts, white bottoms, perky naked breasts and raped slaves in her prose. She writes from her own perspective on society. A unique perspective of an educated female observer from within the structure of regency society . I’ll never forgive the travesty that is this adaptation. It was a true WTF experience.

  7. Affirmed!! August 26, 2016 at 9:34 PM #

    I read the book and immediately watched this movie with shock and confusion written on my face. I immediately went to reviews to work out why this book resembled little of what I had just read and, yet, most praised how amazing it was. This is the first review I’ve found that addresses the clear alterations (such integral features!!) from main characters and plot line. You’ve very nicely listed everything that I too exclaimed at in the movie!!

    However, this makes a lot more sense understanding that the director did not like the book (also don’t know why you would adapt it then?) and so merged it with the letters of Jane Austen herself. I don’t regret watching it, the movie is fun.
    But as I had just read the book I was looking for the Fanny, Henry and Sir Thomas I had come to love or dislike! I actually thought it was a dream that Fanny woke from accepting Henry’s proposal. I also felt for Henry when he was then rejected, the movie version portrayed a character that you grew to like rather than saw his flaws as Fanny did. Interesting adaptation (and, yep, Mary definitely should have been prettier).

  8. ladylavinia1932 September 20, 2016 at 5:38 PM #

    Slavery was made a main focus (????).

    Jane Austen opened up that Pandora’s Box when she portrayed Sir Thomas as a slaveowner and allowed Fanny to ask that question in the first place.

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