Mansfield Park (1999)

Spoilers in Post: Yes, but mildish.

Plot: Fanny Price is from a large, poor family. She is sent to live with her aunt’s family, a rich, slave-owning, family.

Where: Hulu
Rating: PG-13
Release Type: Theatrical

Side Note: The movie indicated it was based off Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s diary, and her letters. I remember when it first came out there was a lot of critical thought about how it wasn’t really Jane Austen. And yes; it is not filmed or presented like most of the other adaptations of her books; it is quite a bit more gritty and comedic that the other period pieces. In many ways it’s closest to Clueless in presentation.

Cast:
+8 for Jonny Lee Miller. If it’s not clear by now, I adore this actor. Although I almost feel his Mr. Knightley was a better done job.
+5 for Frances O’Connor. Her Fanny Price is fantastic.
+15 for Alessandro Nivola. (What?!?). Yes, I can’t believe I rated the rake so high either. But he brought so many layers to the character. Each Jane Austen story has one: Frank Churchill, Wickham, Thorpe, etc.. but he’s the first actor playing one of these parts that actually made me want to root for him, even as I knew how horribly he would fall.
+3 for Hugh Bonneville. I think the man must have a contract somewhere that he must be offered a role in all Jane Austen movies. The last time I watched this movie, I didn’t know who he was. I just remembered “buffoon” and I can see why.
+5 for the rest of the cast. Most of the characters were ideally cast and each actor brought something to the movie.

Production (Writing/Directing/Soundtrack, etc…):
+20 for a multi-layered movie – where each part of the production working in harmony created a movie that made me think. What’s funny is that I’ve seen this movie before. Multiple times. But this time I caught onto so many layers I had never noticed before. Some of which is because of my own naivete. I still remember when I learned that Lady Bertram was high for most of the movie (and the main reason for its PG-13 rating). I had no idea. I think I thought it was alcohol. Whoops.

I hadn’t realized that much of Tom Bertram’s issues stemmed from his guilt over the use of slaves that his family owned. Yes; I had realized that he had issues with it; but for the first time it became clear that his drunkenness and bacchanal behavior were related to guilt; not specifically due to be a rich playboy (I mean, they played a role, obviously. But it was so much more than that).

Or how a soon to be married woman was very specific in setting up the players so she would have the freedom to have an affair.

Or how, when Sir Bertram told Fanny, “You have such a strong, clear voice,” he was, perhaps only very slightly, acknowledging that his patronizing behavior was wrong and that she was worthy of being listened to after all.

+5 for all the slight sight gags that made me actually laugh out loud.

Other:
+2 for family friendliness. It is PG-13 for good reason. As indicated Lady Bertram is high (not drunk) for much of the movie. There is a scene where a two people are found in bed together. There are some very dark, stark, terrifying, horrifying drawings of what slavery was like. If I was a parent I don’t think I’d have an issue with teenagers (or older) watching it (and discussing it); but I think its thematically a bit strong for younger children. Personal opinion, of course, though.

+5 for diversity. So, like most of the other Jane Austen movies there are no people of color anywhere in the movie. I haven’t rated them negatively because its one of those things that I just don’t expect in one of the movies (even though they take place before slavery ended in 1833). But this movie hits it dead on in some pretty subversive ways. Ways that I only just now discovered. I’ve yet to ever read a Jane Austen book, but now I really want to read this one.

+5 because of course I’d watch this one again.

+1 for the quote* “A rake. I think.” “Yes, please.”
*Yeah, I said no rating quotes but this is just hit my funny bone.

Total Score: 75

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