|The remarkable Frances O'Connor in Mansfield Park.|
What, another Jane Austen movie? Yes and "Mansfield Park" sets a new standard for adaptations of the popular author's works.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Emma. Persuasion. Pride and Prejudice. Sense and Sensibility.
Moviedom's love affair with the work of Jane Austen has never been more apparent than
in the last several years. And I'm not just talking major motion pictures here; the Arts
& Entertainment cable network has been broadcasting an equal amount of
made-for-British-television Austen fare for months.
|Written and directed by: Patricia Rozema.|
Adapted from the novel by: Jane Austen.
Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Frances O'Connor, Harold Pinter.
Cinematography: Michael Coulter.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Now we have "Mansfield Park" to continue the illustrious tradition, a film
inspired by Austen's journals, letters, and a tome of intimidating length that bears the
same name. While not a strict adaptation of the novel the talent behind this new
production has chosen to give the "Mansfield Park" heroine, Fanny Price, a contemporary
air and heightened the Antiguan slave trade subtext the film nonetheless showcases
Austen's proficiency in developing characters so rich and vital you'll want to spend many
more hours in their collective company.
As Fanny Price, Frances O'Connor is remarkable (and she doesn't
even get top billing!). A young woman with a quick wit and a fine command of the written
and spoken word (some would say she possesses "a man's intellect"), Fanny is
shipped at an early age from her poverty-stricken dockside home to the dreary elegance of
Mansfield Park, an imposing Georgian estate presided over by her wealthy uncle, the implacable Sir Thomas Bertram. Sir Thomas is played by the distinguished English
playwright Harold Pinter, whose screenwriting credits include "The Go-Between," "Betrayal,"
and "The French Lieutenant's Woman."
|Frances O'Connor and Harold Pinter.|| |
At Mansfield Park, Fanny is forced to endure a life little better than a scullery maid,
condescendingly treated by one Mrs. Norris (Sheila Gish). During her tenure there, Fanny
witnesses various cousins, friends, and neighbors falling in and out of love with each
other and herself at the drop of a handkerchief.
Not only has Canadian writer/director Patricia Rozema ("I've Heard the Mermaids
Singing") retained all of Austen's feel and flair for the world of 1806, but she has
beautifully recreated the language that gives the author's writings such energy. The
entire cast, especially Embeth Davidtz (who does get top billing) as the shallow, worldly Mary Crawford, Alessandro Nivola as her rakish brother Henry, and Jonny Lee Miller as
Fanny's cousin and confidant Edmund Bertram, is marvelous and the range of emotions they
traverse in two short hours is astonishing.
Like all of Austen's works, "Mansfield Park" is drawn from the author's own life
experiences, a life spent almost entirely within her own family circle of struggling
country parsons, rich fools, eligible fops, and young ladies itching to come out into
society. By continuing, unbendingly, to write within that narrow world view she has given
us great literature a precise and complex view of human nature wrapped in incisive
humor, social and moral consequence, and enduring style.
| ||Embeth Davidtz.|
With its gorgeous cinematography (often shot through leaded panes of glass that haven't
seen Windex in weeks), lovely muted score, and sure-footed performances, especially by
Frances O'Connor, Patricia Rozema's "Mansfield Park" sets a new standard for
adaptations of Jane Austen's work.
In that regard the only thing left to add is bring on "Northanger Abbey"!
|DECEMBER 7, 1999|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Mansfield Park:
Post a comment on "Mansfield Park"