Mansfield Park (1999)
Director: Patricia Rozema
Cast: Johnny Lee Miller, Frances O’Conner
Justine Waddell, Sophia Myles, Lyndsay Duncan
Novel: Jane Austen
It is the early 19th century in England, and Fanny Price (Frances O’Conner) is being taken from her waterfront, vermin infested, Portsmouth home, where she lives in cramped uncomfortable quarters with her family and a few million bugs. She is taken to Mansfield Park, the country home of her rich relatives. Her relatives do not really desire Fanny to be living with them. Edmund (Johnny Lee Miller) gets on wonderfully with Fanny right from the start. But everyone else dislikes the presence of their poor relative, and don’t they let her know it! Despite growing up surrounded by people who resent her presence, all except Edmund that is, Fanny develops into a strong minded, intelligent and attractive young woman.
With the arrival at Mansfield Park of Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) and his sister Mary (Embeth Davidtz) the whole household is thrown into uproar. Edmund unfortunately falls for Mary, and both Maria Elizabeth Bertram (Victoria Hamilton), who is already married to the dull gardening fanatic Mr. Rushworth (Hugh Bonneville) and Julia Frances Bertram (Justine Waddell) fall for Henry.
Interesting, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. The well known story off the plight of a poor child taken into a rich household always draws you in with full sympathy for the character, and this one is no different in having you rooting for the underdog right from the start.
Frances O’Conner is wonderful, hypnotic, strong and sexy as Fanny Price. Johnny Lee Miller is also good as the interesting, non-judgmental and calm Edmund. The amount of time that it takes these two to finally get together is almost painful to watch, but you know that all they desire is one another, and hope that they realise it as you do.
Fanny talks to the camera as she tells her stories, and initially it feels strange, but you soon get used to this, and wait impatiently for her next interesting and amusing tete a tete’ with the audience.
Good performances from Lindsay Duncan in the double role as the two long parted sisters, Frances Price (Fanny’s mother) lice ridden and downtrodden, the other the somnambulistic, opium addicted Lady Bertram. Who seems to have a very old fertile, ugly dog. This dog is in her arms when Fanny first arrives at Mansfield Park, and is still there when Fanny is a fully-grown woman. Is this the same dog or just an oversight by the continuity editor?
What a total waste of Justine Waddell as Julia, she spends most of the film sitting around like extra set decoration, and seems to do nothing but provide another admirer for Mr. Crawford. Surely this is a job for a newcomer and not for Justine, after her wonderful performances in the BBC TV epic production of Wives And Daughters (where she squared up admirably against her bitch of a stepmother) and was quite the bitch herself in Great Expectations?
And when is somebody going to provide a leading role for Sophia Myles? Present on the screen so little here, but mesmerizing when she is, and killed off so early in ITV’s wonderful epic adaptation of Oliver Twist?
Review By Giovanni Pistachio. Giovanni can be contacted at: –