Here’s a review that hits a little more close to home, so to speak. I spent my undergrad studies of English Literature studying pre-19th century literature novels, from Oroonoko to Wuthering Heights, and scattered in there were many Jane Austen novels. One of my favorite pastimes is to collect and watch all the movies that are adaptations of Austen’s novels, to see how they compare and contrast to the text. I have several copies of Pride and Prejudice on DVD/Blu-Ray sitting on my shelves, a few copies of Emma and one lonely copy of Northanger Abbey. To say I have an addiction to Austen stories is lacking in description.
Having revisited the text Mansfield Park for my current Graduate class, I realize now that this is the first time I have actually sat down and read the book itself. I have seen the film many times, as I love Jonny Lee Miller’s acting (plus come on, he’s great to look at, and I’m single), but I’ve never actually sat down and properly read the novel itself. Needless to say, I was left wanting more from the movie than was given to the audience. The phrase, “The novel is always better than the movie” definitely applied to this movie.
First off, Sir Thomas is made out to be a mean, hateful man in the movie, trying to force Fanny Price to marry a man whom she doesn’t love and doesn’t have faith in and then sending her off as punishment when she doesn’t conform to his wishes. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN THE NOVEL. Granted, Sir Thomas wants Fanny to marry Henry Crawford in the novel, but he doesn’t force her straight out to do so, and her going home to see her mom, dad and siblings is not a punishment from Sir Thomas as a result of her turning Henry Crawford down. The movie makes Sir Thomas out to be a monster when that’s not the case. Whether this is to give the movie its crisis point where the novel lacks a more exciting moment of crisis or what, I don’t know.
Secondly, Julia is not the sweet, innocent lady that the movie makes her out to be. She does not end up being at home helping to educate Fanny’s younger sister. She ends up following in Maria’s footsteps and runs off with her brother’s friend, eloping instead of marrying well or not marrying at all, as the movie would have you believe. The movie glides over the entire point of Maria and Julia’s behavior, which was to illuminate virtue and the rewards and punishments of those who have or do not have it. Maybe a Hollywood move for a society who does not have virtue? Who knows.
One cannot blame the actors for the lack of truth to the story. The actors did an amazing job with what they were given. Indeed, I think it is the actors that make this adaptation of Mansfield Park. However, one cannot forget the ‘royalty’ in which the movie came from and how they cheated the story to make their version of it.
4 out of 5 stars from me.