By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers) –
2017 is a very interesting year in the literary world because it has been two hundred years since Jane Austen’s death on July 18, 1817. In spite of her unfortunate passing at the relatively young age of 41, Austen’s legacy endures through some of the greatest writing ever produced. Her keen examinations of the human condition have inspired filmmakers to adapt her work into cinematic works of art. It is a bit unfortunate, though, that a film version of Mansfield Park would deviate greatly from the original novel, resulting in a bland Hollywood romance.
Like many films based on literature, this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel contains the classic elements of a period drama, including: pretty costumes, production design that captures Austen’s historical era, and sweeping cinematography. The phrase “sweeping cinematography” is actually a very accurate description of the camera movements because there were parts in which the camera would fly around the set, and offers the audience the ability to experience “soaring.” The film also features an interesting cast that includes Harold Pinter as Sir Thomas Bertram and Johnny Lee Miller as Edmund. Miller actually received a nomination for a Chlotrudis Award for this particular supporting role.
Even though the filmmakers attempted to update the novel for contemporary audiences, those changes end up lowering the film’s credibility. According to the opening credits, this film is, “Based on the novel by Jane Austen, ‘Mansfield Park’, her letters, and early journals.” That opening credit accurately describes the film’s screenplay because some of the fans of the novel expressed disappointment upon seeing this film version. It is highly recommended for viewers to acquire context of Jane Austen’s life and work before watching this film (or else there will be a lot of confusion).
Not only was the film dramatically different from the original novel, but the movie is also frightfully dull. There are numerous scenes in which the characters just talk… A LOT! There really were some boring parts within this film, such as the conversations that the characters have both indoors and outdoors. Some of the discussions are actually beneficial, such as when Edmund praises Fanny Price for her attempts to assert her independence through writing. For the most part, though, this film is a bit of a chore to sit through because of all of its insipid moments.
Between the years 1995 until approximately 2010, there has been a newfound interest in the life and work of Jane Austen thanks to theatrical films, television adaptations, and parodies like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In fact, the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen adaptation to receive a “Best Picture” nomination at the Academy Awards. Perhaps Miramax only produced this version of Mansfield Park in order to capitalize on the hype of romantic period dramas in the late ‘90s, like Titanic (1997) and Shakespeare in Love (1998). This film might be a mediocre adaptation, but it still has that cozy feeling of a “date movie.”
Mansfield Park (1999) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Fanny Price wears dresses with dark colors (including royal blue and burgundy).
Take a Drink: during every scene that take place on ocean docks (which oftentimes include majestic ships along with the beautiful sea).
Drink a Shot: whenever the characters discuss writing, money, love, and marriage (and all four of those topics coincidentally describe the life and times of Jane Austen herself).