Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Film Review: Mansfield Park

I just watched an interesting movie. Not actually a bad one - it was called Mansfield Park, like the Jane Austen novel and, interestingly enough, the characters had the same names as in the novel. In fact, there was also some passing resemblence to the plot as well, although it was clear it had a very different source material.

Yeah, it was that far off.

Let's start with the worst - Fanny herself. The Fanny I know is a meek, mousy girl, who hides in shadows and only speaks her mind when pressed -she's what Jane Eyre tried and failed to be. She asks for nothing, and does not know how to accept it when she is given things she doesn't feel she deserves. She's physically weak, depending on riding to maintain health. She's also easily tired. She reads Improving books, has a firm moral stance from which she does not waver - there is steel beneath that pliancy - and loves nature in all its glory.

She is *not* a young Jane Austen, writing long letters full of exciting stories to her sister, and making witty remarks along the way. They have her reading Jane Austen's own Juvenalia as if it were Fanny's own. fact, she doesn't even write to her sister - she writes to her beloved brother William, who doesn't appear at all. She is not dark and vivacious. She does not run through the manor, and she does not leap on a horse to ride away her emotions, and she certainly doesn't do it *astride*. She's too utterly passive for that. She knows the man she loves is in love with someone else, and she simpy waits for her heart to break, and says nothing, and no one realizes it.

She wouldn't dare talk to her uncle about slaves, not that she seemed to care about them in the novel anyway.

See, I can understand why movies are different than books. Even if I don't like it, I can see why they might drop William and replace him with "Susie" (not *Susan*). It really makes no difference if Mrs. Norris moves from the Parsonage to the Manor, as opposed to her little house. I can even understand why they'd drop the trip to Sotherton.

But there are other changes that made no sense - Lady Bertram is stupid and indolent, but to make her an opium addict? Why? It doesn't add anything at all to the story. To put some of Mrs. Norris' hateful words into Sir Thomas' mouth? Again, why? To make Henry stupid enough to sleep with Maria Rushworth in her own father's house? He's reckless, and he was upset (and he actually had reason to be upset), but to do that? Maria isn't stupid, either.

Why did Henry have the right to be upset? Because in this movie, Fanny actually said "Yes" to him - which is utterly ridiculous. But to make it worse, she *took it back*. Fanny Price, having made a commitment, would NOT take it back. It's not in her to do that. If she accepted Henry's proposal, she'd marry him.

He'd spent a night as a happy man. She took that away from him. Doesn't excuse him sleeping with Maria, but it's just. So out of character.

To make matters worse, they kept talking of Fanny as the meek, mousy creature in the book, and it just wasn't so.

Oh, and a minor bit that really shows the problems of the film - at one point, Mary Crawford writes a letter to Fanny speaking of "Dear Mrs. Rushworth" - this is a quote from the novel. She's making fun of the way Mrs. Norris refers to her married niece. Except. Not once in the film do we hear Mrs. Norris saying that. So if one isn't familiar with the source material, one wouldn't know.

I'm glad I saw this, but I really doubt I'll watch it again.

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