Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Written by:Patricia Rozema
Starring: Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz, Allesandro Nivola
Released: April 20, 2000
Grade: A-

Jane Austen is back in full-swing with Mansfield Park hitting cinemas.  Following the Academy Award winning Sense and Sensibility and Emma, this adaptation takes on a more upbeat cast and direction in an attempt to modernise Austen’s original novel.

Born into a life of poverty, Fanny Price (O’Connor) is given a special opportunity.  At the age of 10, her mother ships her off to Mansfield Park to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle.  However, at her new home she’s always had trouble fitting in and many see her simply as the old peasant girl in a class below the rest of the family.  

From the time she entered Mansfield Park there was always one she could trust and rely on, her cousin Edward (Miller).  They developed a strong bond and shared all their thoughts and feelings with each other.

Over time, Fanny became an excellent writer and established herself into a respectable young lady.  When a wealthy gentleman by the name of Henry Crawford (Nivola) stays for a short time at the Park, he is smitten with Fanny and asks the uncle for her hand in marriage who accepts the proposal.

Fanny wants no part of it.  She doesn’t believe Henry will be faithful to her and refuses to marry him.  Her uncle threatens to disband her from the household unless she accepts which leaves her in an impossible situation - either marry a man she does not love or be forced to return home to her life of destitution.

Frances O’Connor has bloomed as an actress over her short career and is set to make her mark in Hollywood.  O’Connor is wonderful in her role as Fanny Price and caught the attention of Steven Spielberg who has just cast her along side Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment in the new A.I. project.

Patricia Rozema’s direction is also well crafted.  The flashy camera movements and angles help keep the story upbeat and moving.  The language is kept simple and it all works for the benefit of the film and the genre.  So many are turned off by period pieces but film’s such as Mansfield Park are doing their best to take the movie to the public rather than the other way around.

Jane Austen’s works deserve the success they are receiving.  Her writings are in a class of their own - romantic tales 200 years ago that are still relevant today.  I’m sure William Shakespeare would have been a fan.

Not to be missed, Mansfield Park is an uplifting romantic comedy of love triumphing above adversity.  Austen fans can expect more of her works on the big screen rather soon I presume.  They’re certainly more entertaining than the current crop of romantic films being churned out by Hollywood writers.  Soak it up while you still can.