“Life seems nothing more than a quick succession of busy nothings”
Eek. So having sampled the more recent ITV version of Mansfield Park. I next turned to Patricia Rozema’s 1999 film adaptation and adaptation is surely the right word for it felt like an entirely different story and not in a good way. Again, there’s a distinct modernisation of the heroine into something which was assumedly palatable for test audiences and/or studio bosses but consequently way misses the mark for anything truly Austenesque, Frances O’Connor isn’t exactly bad as Fanny but it never feels like a good fit.
Elsewhere, there’s a scything of some of the key characters, script changes altering others completely. And strangely, given how much of Austen’s novel has to be concertinaed into feature film length, Rozema opts to add in new material – an overworked strand about slavery is heavy-handed in the extreme, the hints of lesbianism (Embeth Davidtz’s Mary Crawford) a desperate ploy for scandal, opium addiction for Lady Bertram scandalously wasting the presence of Lindsay Duncan.
The only saving graces come with good performances from Harold Pinter as paterfamilias Sir Thomas Bertram, Victoria Hamilton as a moving Maria and particularly Jonny Lee Miller as the charismatic Edmund, destined for good things from the off. Justine Waddell and Sophia Myles also do in smaller roles but once again, Mansfield Park proves a tricky beast to film. Best avoided.