Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Mansfield Park

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief violent images, sexual content and drug use

Reviewed by: Robin Joy Wardzala

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance Drama
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
Mansfield Park Mansfield Park

Starring: Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, Harold Pinter | Director: Patricia Rozema | Producer: Sarah Curtis | Writers: Patricia Rozema, Jane Austen (novel) | Distributed by: Miramax

While the plot of “Mansfield Park” is predictably formulaic and very similar to Jane Austen’s other novels, there is a hint of poignancy and introspection that gives the film some depth. The principle characters are all unique and somewhat quirky in their own way. As a matter of fact, it is their personalities that keep the story interesting.

The film’s premise is fairly simple. Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor), is an outspoken girl with a creative mind and an affinity for writing. At a young age, she is sent to live with her aunt at Mansfield Park, an elegant English estate. As she grows up, she forms a deep friendship with the estate owner’s son, Edmond Bertram. Her comfortable life changes when the dashing Henry Crawford and his sister Mary move into the parsonage next-door. The Bertram sisters, Julia and Mariah, both fall for Henry. Mariah is engaged to be married to a rich, ignorant slob, but this doesn’t stop her from throwing herself at the handsome stranger. Edmond is captivated by Mary, making Fanny rather jealous. Eventually, though, Fanny is offered a proposal, and must decide whether to marry for money or wait for love.

Potential viewers should be aware that there is a strong sexual undercurrent throughout the film that is somewhat unsettling. One particular scene involves a married woman in bed with another man. Nothing except the man’s bare back is shown, but the implications are obvious. Also, Fanny is shown flipping through a sketchbook with graphic pictures of slaves being tortured and sexually abused. This is rather disturbing, but the effect is lessened by the fact that Fanny flips the pictures very quickly. Slavery is a recurring theme in this film, and is portrayed in several different ways. One involves the captivity and treatment of African-American slaves. Another more subtle reference shows Fanny’s life as that of a person who is trapped in a situation and can’t get out; a slave to circumstances.

Nevertheless, “Mansfield Park” has several good qualities. It is very unusual to find such a clean film. There is absolutely no foul language, and Fanny is everything one could hope for in a heroine. She also believes in going to church and appears to hold Christian beliefs. Another positive element is Edmond’s decision to go to seminary school and study to become a parson.

Aside from the aforementioned disturbing elements, I found this film to be a quality piece of movie-making with a wonderfully satisfying happy ending.

Jane Austen related films

“Pride and Prejudice” (2000)

“Pride and Prejudice” (2005)

Bride and Prejudice” (2005)

Persuasion” (1995)

Becoming Jane” (2007)

Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)

Viewer Comments
This is a wonderful movie. I left the theater thrilled. So few movies today have such an interesting story line, gorgeous acting, fabulous scenery. There are twists and turns, and it has some sordid detail, but not gratuitously mentioned, but as an intrinsic part of the plot. Any movie that tries to depict life as it is will contain the troubled aspect of individuals and society. There was no intent to glamorize any of these negative themes. There is nothing in this movie to be ashamed of. Appropriate for young adults also. My Ratings: [3/5]
Halyna Barannik, age 54
I’ve published several periodicals over the years reviewing film from both a Christian and secular perspective. Having never read a Jane Austen book I can only judge this film on its own merits. I loved “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma” and was curious about “Mansfield” in spite of the reports of “cheap shots” abounding. I am appalled at the general condition of film today, but I found this film completely tame by the last few decade’s “lack-of-standards.” I, therefore found the comments concerning it’s alleged unsavory nature not only largely unfounded but often patently wrong. (Did I see an “edited” version???) There is not a single, solitary “graphic” moment in the entire piece although the film does have a more lurid “undertone” than the other two movies. There is NO total nudity (front or back.) There is IMPLICATION of gender confusion.

The scene in which the leading lady leafs through an album containing drawings of racial atrocity is done in a rapid succession of very quick cuts and while maybe none of this is “True To Jane”—it’s true to life while not being gratuitous due to the gracious editing. The racial atrocity scene lends a depth of content quite absent from previous Austen adaptations. Don’t expect the sweet and innocent carriage ride of the previously mentioned two films—but don’t be put off—because in the demonic onslaught of recent films—this one is more than passable. Is there a moral to the story? Only the same moral as in “Sense” and “Emma.” I won’t belabour the obvious by giving it away right now. This is “Austen with an Edge.” Carnal but not gratuituous. At least I cared about the people and what happened to them. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Bob Bryden, age 48
This is a wonderful film. “Mansfield Park” (the film) turns out to have an engaging spirit that is both similar to and different from that of “Mansfield Park” the novel. As a long-time fan of Jane Austen’s books, I was rather surprised at how quickly I warmed to this new, spirited version of young Fanny Price—at times, I had the odd sensation that *this* was how Austen might have imagined Fanny if the author were alive today. Usually, when a movie is based on a fine novel, the movie inevitably comes off poorly by comparison. “Mansfield Park,” however, is almost as enjoyable on film as on paper—perhaps because the director chose an interesting (and, in my opinion, successful) balance between strict adherence to the text and creative license. “Mansfield Park” is one of Austen’s longer, and more introspective, works; as a result, the film version has to omit a lot, and the characters' development is occasionally handled somewhat awkwardly.

In my opinion, the material that was cut—albeit by necessity—is more of a problem than the material that was added. For example, the insertion of occasional references to the slave economy of the West Indies—and to the family’s dependence on that economy for its privileged lifestyle—makes sense to me, in a way that (for example) Kenneth Branaugh’s translation of “Hamlet” into the 19th Century never did make sense. These references to slavery have drawn a lot of attention among reviewers; they end up altering our impressions of the character of Sir Thomas Bertram and his eldest son Tom. (Sir Thomas comes off rather less sympathetically, but young Tom perhaps slightly more than he would have otherwise). Of course, from a Christian perspective, it is entirely appropriate to consider the moral issues underlying the source of the Bertram family’s wealth… Much of what is being read, viewed, and listened to as “entertainment” today is rather shallow and ephemeral.

I hope that this movie, by presenting one of Jane Austen’s novels in an intriguing and exciting light, will draw more people to read Austen’s books. My Ratings: [4/4½]
—Chris Smith, age 33
I suppose there is something to be said for holding true to the original story but few, if any, adaptations do justice to the original work. I saw this movie with my wife, and not because I lost a bet. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and disagree with the previous review that said it was offensive and should be avoided. I have not read any Jane Austen novels and do not pretend to be an authority on such matters but I have seen my share of movies and have to say that I never once looked at my watch hoping it would end. In fact, I was almost sorry to see it end. The film made me want to read the book and others by this wonderful author. I guess everything is relative and maybe the film was not true to the book nor true to the spirit of Jane Austen’s other works. All I know is that seeing this movie and my wife’s giddiness afterwards made me glad I went. If nothing else, it was an entertaining, witty escape from our daily routine. A quality date movie. My Rating: [3/4]
—Mike Gallagher, age 32
This movie is appalling. Any fan of Jane Austen’s works should avoid this adaptation. As a piece of cinema, I guess it isn’t all that bad, but professing to be a screen presentation of a Jane Austen novel, it fails on all accounts. Since I am an avid reader of Jane Austen, my comments must be viewed as having a very strong bias in favor of the writer’s sensibilities and her vision. The screenwriter, who is also the director, has used Jane Austen’s characters and parts of the plot to weave her own tale. The book’s meek and mild protagonist Fanny Price becomes a spunky, Karen Allen type heroine who has been spiced up by the addition of events from Austen’s own biography instead of remaining true to the character in the novel. This is quite a hurdle for fans of the novel to overcome. The worst travesty is the graphic depicting of sex, torture and mutilation. Anyone familiar with Jane Austen knows that nothing so vulgar as this is ever shown in her books.

Adultery and other sexual indiscretion is only told about from a distance. The adultery in this version of “Mansfield Park” is shown by having the heroine interrupt the lovers in the very act. The other grossness is shown by having the heroine leaf through a sketchbook of charcoal drawings of rape, mutilation and murder of slaves. There are minor scenes of erotic behavior between two women as well. This is so contrary to the spirit of Jane Austen. It offends in every possible sense. My Ratings: [2/1½]
—Renee Schiber, age 48