This is the third screen adaptation of Jane Austen's third novel, Mansfield Park. The screenplay was written by Maggie Wadey and Billie Piper (Secret Diaries of a Call Girl, Dr. Who) portrays the exuberant heroine Fanny Price.
Fanny Price's mother sends her to live with her Aunt and Uncle's family because she is too poor to give her a proper social upbringing. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram raise Fanny along with four children (Thomas, Maria, Julia, and Edmund) of their own. Of all the children Fanny is treated the best by Edmund (Blake Ritson). Lady Bertram is quite fond of Fanny but never seems to put her jealous sister in her place--Mrs. Norris, who runs the household, belittles Fanny either making her the butt of jokes or blaming her for ills obviously caused by others. If the milk soured it was probably Fanny's fault.
Edmund takes care of Fanny like no other family members do but shortly before her eighteenth birthday Henry and Mary Crawford introduce themselves into the Bertram home changing the family dynamics. Mary attaches herself to Edmund, much to Fanny's dismay, because the eldest heir is not at home. And Henry can't make up his mind which Bertram lady to attach himself to -- the available Julia or the engaged Maria.
Fanny holds her jealousy in check when Edmund begins spending time with Mary. Mary while interested in Edmund to some degree is not happy with his choice of profession, a cleric, and spends much of her time trying to convince him to change his vocation because she would be happier marrying a lawyer or soldier; any man with more means than 700 pounds a month.
Edmund continues to confide in Fanny and always asks for her assurance but doesn't see her as anything other than his charge, a younger sister perhaps. It isn't until Maria is married off and Henry finds himself bored into trying to seduce Fanny (who shows no interest) that Edmund begins to notice her more as a woman but still not as a likely mate.
It isn't until Henry and Mary's true scruples are shown (as well as Fanny's) that Edmund realizes what a fool he has been and that he has really been in love with Fanny all this time and that she is so obviously in love with him. Of course, the movie wraps up with everyone with who they should be with and a fine wedding. "Let's make it our business, Mrs. Bertram, to be happy ever after." says Edmund.
Billy Piper is excellent as the vibrant and carefree Fanny who loves to run wild with her hair blowing in disarray. Her modern features were a bit distracting at first but I liked the interpretation of someone with her background being less puckered. I must also add that I might be a bit biased because I was a huge fan of Piper when she was on the updated Dr. Who. And Blake Ritson is a fabulously adoring and handsome Edmund who is easy to love (surprisingly he's going to be portraying Mr. Elton in an updated television version of Emma). There is more passionate kissing in this movie than I remember and thankfully a lot less extended dancing. I enjoyed watching this adaptation but I believe I prefer the 1999 version which stars Frances O'Conner and is about twenty minutes longer and includes more scenes from the book. Of course, the book is always better!
Jane Austen "purists" must keep in mind that this in an adaptation of the book and not a play by play of every character and scene. There are many characters and scenes not included in this 90 minute film but it is reasonably faithful to the main characters' story lines and still entertaining for Jane Austen fans.
Mansfield Park is available from Amazon.com.
Mansfield Park is available from Amazon.ca.