Monday, August 16, 2010

Title:  Mansfield Park
Format:  Netflix
Category:  Masterpiece Theater/Jane Austen adaptation
Rating:  A

Description (from  At age 10, Fanny Price is sent by her destitute mother to live with her aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. As a child she was often made to feel that she was the poor relation, but by the time she reaches 18, and in the absence of her uncle who leaves on a business trip for an extended period, she begins to enjoy herself. When Henry Crawford and his sister Mary become neighbors to the Bertrams, opportunities abound. Edmond Bertram falls in love with Mary but she wants to marry a man with money, not someone destined to life as a clergyman. Meanwhile, Fanny's love for her cousin Edmond prevents her from accepting Mr. Crawford's proposal of marriage.

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It seems that no one really likes Austen's heroine Fanny Price.  And I only say this because in every Mansfield Park adaptation I've seen, Fanny is nothing like the way she was written.  She is described in the book as very quiet and timid, a doormat for her aunts and cousins, and very moral.  Some of her critics would call her a prude.  But in every movie/miniseries based on the book, Fanny is only a little quiet, intermittently outspoken towards her aunts and cousins, and sometimes completely forgets her the morals.  In the 1999 movie, she was even a feminist.  In this 2007 adaptation, Fanny is more timid than her previous feminist portrayal, but she's still more outspoken than Austen ever intended her to be.

I'm also always surprised with how Mr. Bertram is portrayed in these adaptations as well.  He's supposed to be stern in the beginning and then soften later, but these adaptations seem to love making him into a very mean, overbearing brute.  He's not quite so mean in this adaptation as he is in the movie, but I feel like he's wrongfully portrayed.  At least they got Mrs. Norris right.  And they gave Mrs. Bertram more depth and intelligence than anyone's ever afforded her before.

One of my favorite aspects of this Mansfield Park is how closely it follows the book.  They don't take too much creative license with it; they just stay true to the story.  And I loved their interpretation of Austen's most frustrating and unsatisfying romantic conclusion-- "I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire."  Their interpretation was believable, romantic, and much more satisfying than Austen's own ending.  A

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