Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Written by: Patricia Rozema
Other cast: Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Frances O'Connor, Harold Pinter, Lindsay Duncan, Sheila Gish, James Purefoy, Victoria Hamilton, Justine Waddell, Hugh Bonneville
Release date: 11 July 2000 (US), 4 February 2002 (UK)
Running time: 107 min
10-year-old Fanny Price is shipped from her run-down rat-infested home in Portsmouth to live with her wealthy relatives in Mansfield Park. While growing up, the richer relations give constant reminders that they have every advantage over her. The only moments of kindness comes from Edmund, who shares Fanny’s love for dreams and story telling.
The film tells the story of Fanny Price, whose mother, Mrs Price, married a relatively poor man for love and whose father cannot afford to support his large family. At the age of 10, Fanny is summoned to live with her wealthy relatives, the Bertram family (Sir Thomas, Lady Bertram (Fanny’s aunt) and their four children: Tom, Maria Bertram, Edmund and Julia; and Fanny’s other maternal aunt, Mrs Norris, at Mansfield Park. Fanny’s arrival is less than welcoming and it is made clear that she is to be treated differently from her cousins. Mrs. Norris treats her more like a servant than a relative. As the separation from her own family begins to overwhelm her, and she is told that she is expected to stay at Mansfield forever, Fanny is distressed. Her young cousin Edmund Bertram behaves kindly to her, and the two develop a friendship that grows as the years progress.
When Fanny is eighteen, her uncle, Sir Thomas, travels to Antigua to deal with some problems there concerning his slaves. The Abolitionists are making inroads into freeing slaves, and the Bertram family is feeling the financial effects. Sir Thomas departs, taking the eldest son, Tom, with him.
In Sir Thomas’ absence, the Bertram family life is disrupted by the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford, relatives of the local clergyman. Mary and Henry are worldly, cynical and beautiful – and are looking for amusement. Edmund is instantly smitten with Mary, and devotes his time and attention to her, ignoring and hurting Fanny.
Maria and Julia Bertram both vie for Henry Crawford’s affections, even though Maria is already engaged to the rich but stupid Mr. Rushworth. Mr. Crawford is shamelessly flirtatious with Maria.
Tom returns from Antigua, arriving drunk and bringing a friend, Mr. Yates, with him. Yates and Tom convince the Bertrams and Crawfords to stage a risque play, Lovers’ Vows. The play is a pretext that allows the young people to openly flirt with each other. Edmund is initially vocally against the play, but soon changes his mind when he is offered a part that allows him to act out love scenes with Mary Crawford.
Just as things seem to be getting out of control, with Maria openly flirting with Henry Crawford in front of her bumbling fiance Rushworth, Sir Thomas arrives home. He is furious and immediately stops the play. Maria rushes into a marriage with Mr Rushworth – whom she does not love or respect, but whose money and house in London she wants – and leaves for Brighton, taking Julia with her. Henry Crawford, deprived of Maria, decides to pursue Fanny as a means to amuse himself. However, Fanny’s gentle and kind nature captures his fancy, and Mr. Crawford finds himself emotionally attached to her. After his behaviour towards the Bertram girls, Fanny is disgusted by and distrusts Henry and does not believe his declarations of love. Even so, Henry asks Sir Thomas for Fanny’s hand in marriage and she is urged to accept the advantageous offer. Fanny surprises and disappoints the Bertrams when she refuses.
Angry and perplexed at her refusal, Sir Thomas gives Fanny an ultimatum – accept Henry’s proposal of marriage or be sent back to her relatively poor family and experience the difference in comfort. Fanny looks to Edmund for support, but his indifference forces her to choose the latter.
At home, she is reunited with her younger sister Susie, with whom she had been corresponding since she arrived at Mansfield. Several days after her return, Henry Crawford pays a visit, trying to convince Fanny that his affections for her are genuine and his intentions true. Although she looks more favorably on him, Fanny continues to cling to her feelings for Edmund and still rejects Crawford. Only when a letter from Edmund arrives which discloses his hopes of marrying Mary Crawford – he writes that Mary is the only woman he can see as his wife – does Fanny seriously consider Henry Crawford’s offer. Finally, she concedes and accepts his proposal. However, Fanny realizes she does not trust Crawford, and takes back her acceptance the next day. Henry is furious and storms away.
The next day, Edmund arrives to fetch Fanny and take her back to Mansfield to help tend to Tom, who has fallen ill and is near death. On the carriage ride, Edmund confesses he has missed Fanny, and she him, but Edmund hesitates to elaborate further because of his attachment to Mary Crawford.
After her return to Mansfield Park, both the Crawfords and the Bertram sisters arrive. The now-married Maria rebukes Henry for trifling with her affections and then pursuing Fanny. Henry gains her pity when Maria learns of Fanny’s decision not to marry him and together they succumb to their lust. Their indiscretion is discovered by Fanny when she accidentally walks in on them, and she runs to Edmund. But Fanny’s inability to tell him of the affair leads Edmund to investigate for himself and witness his sister’s adultery. Edmund returns to comfort Fanny and, caught up in the moment, nearly kisses her, but he remembers himself and pulls away.
News of the scandal spreads rapidly and Mary Crawford quickly devises a plan to stifle the repercussions. Miss Crawford suggests that after Maria’s divorce, Maria would marry Henry and Edmund would marry Mary and together they might re-introduce Henry and Maria back into society. Fanny questions Mary as to how a clergyman could afford lavish parties, Mary shocks everyone by stating that when Tom dies, Edmund will be heir to the family’s fortune. Mary lays blame on Fanny, reasoning that had she married Henry, he would not have been tempted by Maria. Edmund is appalled and tells Mary that cheerfully condemning Tom to death whilst she plans to spend his money sends a chill to his heart. Having betrayed her true nature to the Bertram family, Mary, shamed, leaves the room.
Edmund ultimately declares his love for Fanny, and they eventually marry. Sir Thomas gives up his plantation in Antigua and invests instead in tobacco. Tom recovers from his illness while Julia receives a love letter from Tom’s friend, Mr. Yates. Fanny also mentions that her sister Susie had joined them at the Bertram household whilst Maria, whom Henry refused to marry, and crabby Mrs. Norris were forced to keep each other company by taking up residence in a small cottage removed from Mansfield Park. And as for the Crawford siblings, they have each found themselves “respectable” partners who agree with their particular lifestyle.
Sophia plays the grown-up version of Susan Price, Fanny Price’s sister
One sex scene was cut from the US version in order to obtain a PG rating
The film differs from the Jane Austen novel Mansfield Park in numerous and significant ways; some central characters are changed, several others are eliminated, and certain events were reorganized.
The plot changes the moral message of Austen’s novel, and makes the story a critique of slavery rather than a Conservative critique of the “modern”.
Quotes from Reviews
Sophia Myles, who plays Fanny’s grown sister Susan, resembles Leonardo Di Caprio.