Oh, to be in England Not that the novel or the adaptations are not enjoyable This works well in novel form but is difficult to get a film audience to hang in there until the story develops. The first recent adaptation, from tries to get around this problem by making Fanny a sort of copy of Jane Austen herself, feisty and a budding authoress.
To say this was inspired by Jane Austen and her works, rather than an adaptation of Mansfield Park would be very fair. It is almost along the lines of Becoming Jane in the way that it blends fiction with fact.
It will also work better if you have not recently finished reading the novel, so that the departures will not seem so glaring. Bridget Jones fans will recognize the actress playing Mary Crawford as Embeth Davidtz, who played the hateful Natasha.
I loved her costumes and her acting in this film but I must stay true to Bridget and hate her otherwise, on principle. I did like the way they made Henry Crawford very likeable and the way they had Fanny accept him one day and reject him the next, a la Harris Bigg-Wither.
It took her inner conflict about him to a new level and truly, who among us would not have run off with him, as Alessandro Nivola plays Henry as the bad boy that girls love to fall in love with. But not Fanny Price however. She foresees the evil that would befall her as his wife and knows that their morals would never mesh. Oh well, Edmund is cute too, and oh so reliable and those lips! I did think the Mrs. Norris character was well played. I did however think that making Lady Bertram an opium addict instead of just lazy was going a little far.
The slave trade story line was another non Austen twist and I suppose is one of those dirty little secrets that Jane Austen could only allude to obliquely. The music is quite lovely and adds to the atmosphere. Other than Sir Thomas and Mr. Yes, it is fluffy and cute and sexes up!? Yes, her straggly bleached blonde hair and dark brows are distracting especially when mimicked on the poor dear who plays young Fanny. Yes, there is an alarming amount of cleavage for a Jane Austen film.
However, considering they were trying to fit a very long book into two hours, and apparently on a tight budget, I think they did a fair job. Much snipping and condensing of plot will always take place in such a short adaptation. His explanation of a battle at the dinner table using salt shakers was reminiscent of the scene from Bend it Like Beckham, and very endearing. Her fellow actors were good, especially Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford who was delightfully scheming.
Again, you have to forget how Jane Austen created the character and just enjoy Ms. Come on, the cat in Harry Potter was wayyyyy nastier. I know, you are thinking, I thought she said she kind of liked it. And I did, truly. Perhaps it was the lowered expectations from all the reviews, or maybe I was just in a good mood.
Cutting out the Susan character and the location of Portsmouth were not really distressing although punishing Fanny by leaving her alone in a large country house without any tiresome relations is not going to make her want to marry Henry. And the dancing on the lawn, although odd, can be forgiven. Where is Andrew Davies when you really need him? He is very cute however and the young girls seem quite happy with his dishy Edmund.
Jane Austen-ish and very pretty to look at. And feel free to shout at the screen at any time.
Posted by Jenny Allworthy at 4:
Oh, to be in England
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