Monday, January 28, 2008

The Complete Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

So this was pretty much dreadful.

A lot of people complain about the 1999 version of Mansfield Park with Frances O’Connor because it wasn’t very faithful to the book, but I think I kind of loved it because of that. I read the book a long time ago and remember not really liking it too much, especially compared to my favorites, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, so that movie made the story and characters much more fun and interesting. Northanger Abbey starts off by saying that no one would suppose Catherine Morland to be a heroine but really, Fanny Price is much much less likely to be one. It's kind of hard to root for her...she’s shy and quiet and kind of cries a lot. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that...I'm probably more like Fanny than not but I'm pretty sure a book about my life would be pretty dull too.

Anyway, this adaptation seems to have tried to follow the book a bit more closely, but they kind of took all the wrong parts. They took out all the amusing Mrs. Norris bits and completely cut out the part where Fanny goes back to Portsmouth which is kind of an important part of the book, and I feel like for someone unfamiliar with the story, it would be really hard to follow as everyone’s intentions seemed so murky. I guess they did try to make Fanny a bit more likable by casting Billie Piper (who I do like because of Doctor Who but is kind of misused here) and making her run around and smile and laugh more, but she was still basically an uninteresting character. And the ending was just terrible. TERRIBLE. Edmund realizes that he loves Fanny in the stupidest moment ever, when she randomly advises Lady Bertram to use purple thread instead of maroon, and then there’s all this running (what is the deal with these new adaptations and all the running??), and at their wedding Fanny and Edmund waltz in front of everyone with Lady Bertram commenting that oh, they’ve learned a new dance. Um, WTF?

And on a more shallow note, the hair in this movie was just out of control. Why was Fanny’s hair all messy and just hanging down on her shoulders? Didn’t women pretty much always wear their hair up back then? And Henry Crawford and Tom both had pretty unfortunate hair too. And overall, there was sadly a definite lack of eye candy in this movie, definitely nothing compared to Alessandro Nivola and Jonny Lee Miller from the 1999 version. Also, Michelle Ryan, aka the Bionic Woman, played Maria, and she seemed weirdly out of place to me. Can someone point me to something that she's actually good in?

Oh, and what was up was Gillian Anderson’s bizarre and convoluted introduction about how Jane Austen wrote herself into the book as Mary Crawford, except prettier? Where did that even come from?? One thing I will say, though, is that all these adaptations are making me want to read all the books again. Despite how terrible this one was, I now want to go back and re-read the book and see if I still feel the same about it...

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