Directed by Patricia Rozema
Starring Frances O’Connor, Embeth Davis, Jonny Lee Miller
Connections are everything, and connections pull Fanny Price (O’Connor) from the squalor of 18th century Portsmouth to the Georgian splendor of Mansfield Park. Splendor has its own price, and this batch costs the backs and lives of the Antigua sugar plantations slaves, and tears at the fabric of the Bertram family. As the Vicar’s niece, Fanny herself holds a position halfway between the servants and the two Bertram daughters. Educated and sharp witted, Fanny inhabits another demimonde — torn between the rakish Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) and lifelong boyfriend Edmund (Miller). Edmund is reluctantly engaged to Henry’s sister, Miss Mary Crawford-Machiavelli (Davis), and Henry has the money, position, and looks to make her very comfortable — unless he gets some extra comfort on the side. What’s a girl to do? Well, her mother married for love, and see where it got her.
As with all BBC period pieces, the glorious estates of the National
Trust provide the requisite ever-so-moneyed backdrop for sparkly gowns, elaborate hair styling, and properly respectful servants. Based loosely on one of Jane Austen’s lesser known novels, the pacing mimics the tales she spins for her younger sister, with the heroine rising to the highs, falling to the depths, and ultimately achieving the love you knew she deserved right from the start. Fanny knows her mind, trusts her instincts, and achieves the glorious happiness one hopes to find at the end of any good bodice ripper.