Mansfield Park (1999)

I must have seen Mansfield Park on a plane before I watched this DVD.

I remembered only the oddly sexualized parts, which surprised me both times, since the sex in Jane Austen’s romances is, in the novels and the other movie adaptations I’ve seen, all much more implicit.

Another weird thing about this movie is that bits of Jane Austen’s letters were put in as part of the character Fanny Price, who sometimes speaks directly to the camera.

Finally, the movie adds in a didactic subplot to remind us that Slavery Is Bad.

Although the movie seemed well received, personally, I can’t recommend it.


Opening Image
The movie begins with Fanny Price telling a story to her sister.

Fanny journeys from her working-class home, shared with many siblings, to the grand estate of Sir Thomas. She works as a kind of personal assistant to her rather unfriendly aunt. Maria and Julia, the daughters of the wealthy landowner, are not kind to Fanny when she arrives, but their brother Edmund is.

Two fashionable and single visitors arrive, siblings Mary and Henry Crawford.

Debate / Break Into Two / B Story / Promise of the Premise (???)
Henry is a possible husband for Julia, but enjoys flirting with Maria, who is already engaged to a wealthy but dim man.

Mary pursues Edmund in spite of the fact that he is going to become a priest. Edmund likes Mary and lets her ride Fanny’s horse, which Fanny feels is a sad betrayal.

Tom, Tom’s friend, and the Crawfords convince Edmund to join them in the production of a popular play even though Edmund disapproves of the content and knows that Sir Thomas would as well.

There’s a ball where Fanny is brought out into society and Henry starts seriously flirting with her.

All along, Fanny is reminded that she does not belong with these rich young people, that she is poor and a burden. She entertains herself by writing in her cold attic room. Edmund treats her like a sister.

Henry asks Sir Thomas for permission to marry Fanny, and he agrees. Fanny refuses to marry Henry because, she says, she doesn’t trust Henry. In addition, she loves Edmund. Sir Thomas sends Fanny back to visit her family. He hopes it will remind her that she is used to living well and convince her that it would be a good idea to marry Henry if only for his money.

Bad Guys Close In
Edmund writes to Fanny and says he is thinking seriously of marrying Mary. Fanny’s mother reminds Fanny that she stubbornly married for love and now lives in poverty. Fanny, flattered by Henry’s attentiveness, agrees to marry him.

All is Lost / Dark Night of the Soul / Break into Three
Fanny changes her mind and rejects Henry again. He storms off and says he hopes her stay in Portsmouth is long and enjoyable, meaning that he hopes she lives there in poverty and regret for the rest of her life. She fears she will never return to Mansfield Park where Edmund is, or even get another marriage offer like Henry’s. Fanny is summoned back from her family to tend to Tom, who has fallen ill.

Because Fanny has rejected Henry, and because Maria is dissatisfied with her husband, Maria and Henry run away together. When the family meets to discuss this social catastrophe, Mary calmly reveals that she fully believes Tom will die and that Edmund, who she intends to marry, will inherit the estate. Edmund repudiates her for her cold-bloodedness and decides to marry Fanny instead.

Closing Image
Fanny narrates the resolution. She marries Edmund. Tom survives. The annoying aunt takes care of Maria. The Crawfords marry people like themselves. Fanny’s sister comes to Mansfield Park.