Friday, February 01, 2008

Mansfield Park on Masterpiece

Captain's Log, Supplemental

Okay, I was going to hold this for next week but I can’t hold the frustration in any longer. I finally saw Mansfield Park on Masterpiece Classic and it’s horrid (to channel Jane Austen).

The story moves WAY too fast. The different issues dealt with in the book speed by so fast, I wonder than anyone who hasn’t read Mansfield Park can even understand what’s going on.

The characters themselves are completely changed. Fanny is lively and girlish instead of timid and demure. And I agree with Kaye and Ruth, what’s with the hair down on her shoulders? How could the hair and makeup department let her get away with looking like a hoyden? I also agree with Kaye about Fanny’s heaving bosoms throughout the movie—so out of character for a “poor relation” to have such low-cut gowns.

I do have to say one thing—I really enjoyed the moment Edmund tells Fanny that Mary Crawford is the only woman he could want for a wife—Billie Piper’s look is so exactly what I’d expect Fanny’s would have been, wanting to burst into tears and exerting herself to hide it.

Mary Crawford is still witty (at least the lines taken from the novel, not the lines given to her by the scriptwriter), but more demure and not as lively, gay, or teasing as she was in the book. The script also erased her growing friendship with Fanny after Maria married.

The script never really shows Mr. Crawford’s slimy, flirting side with Maria and Julia, so when Fanny refuses him in the movie, it made me wonder what’s so wrong with Mr. Crawford and so wonderful about Edmund!

Mrs. Norris is completely obliterated. The main emotional force who shaped Fanny’s character growing up has become bland and almost invisible. When she left, I could care less.

Plus the actors who played Mrs. Norris, Sir Thomas, and Lady Bertram are all too young to be their characters.

The humor of Lady Bertram’s indolence is gone. The actress has a few pert lines that makes her seem insipid rather than a figure of fun.

Sir Thomas appears mean rather than old-fashioned and strict, as he was in the novel. The scriptwriter took all his most hateful lines out of context—out of the awkwardness he originally spoke them in—and had them spring out of his mouth at moments that only make him seem like a boor.

Mr. Rushworth is no longer a thickheaded buffoon that you can’t help feeling sorry for despite the fact he’s an idiot. In the movie, he’s just a rather boring young man with 12,000 pounds a year.

Here I deviate from Kaye and Ruth—I think James D’Arcy is only okay-looking as an actor, and not all that fantastic as Tom Bertram.

And what’s with turning Fanny’s ball (in the novel) into a picnic and holding a dance on the lawn???

And, another big disappointment, they cut out Fanny’s entire time in Portsmouth, which is like a quarter of the entire novel. They replaced it with the Bertrams and Mrs. Norris going to see her mother! Like Lady Bertram would ever travel, let alone without Fanny!

Talk about inaccuracies with the time period, too. Edmund would never have been in Fanny’s room, which he is two or three times, and Fanny would never have been in Tom’s room, no matter that they’re cousins—especially with Tom shirtless! And the waltzing at the end was scandalous for the time.

And why did they have hand-held cameras for the entire movie? I started getting sick after only 5 minutes into it, which really really really annoyed me because I couldn’t watch without a roiling stomach for the entire 2 hours.

All in all, I wasn’t as antsy watching Mansfield Park as I was when watching Persuasion on Masterpiece, which I think is because I was rather prepared for a mediocre adaptation of one of my favorite books. Or maybe it’s an indication of how bad I thought Persuasion was.


  1. you don't think James D'Arcy is hot??? :(

    other than that lol i agree with everything else you said about it. i got sick in the beginning when they kept batting around that badmitton thing!!

  2. I have to disagree with you on James D'Arcy...he's a hottie. :)

    The hand-held camera filming for this and Persuasion was just weird. And rather nauseating. If a director can't do it right...why bother? *sigh*

    And poor Billie's hair...yeesh. Plus I don't think the costume department properly altered these dresses to actually FIT her.

    Completely agree with you about the way people were constantly waltzing in and out of each other's bedrooms...especially at the end when Edmund walks in on Fanny and she's in a nightdress WASHING HER HAIR. I was like what the heck?!

    Thanks for the link. :)

  3. I didn't see the show, and now I won't be disappointed not to have seen it. Mansfield Park is my least favorite of Jane Austen's novels, but still it seems from your description that they could have done a better job of translating it to screen.

    I can't believe they completely left out Portsmouth. Not only is it a quarter of the novel, but it's a very important quarter of the novel!

  4. James D'Arcy was wasted in the role of Tom. He's much better in Master & Commander and Marple: The Moving Finger (especially in Marple!!)

    Ah, well. On to Miss Austen Regrets.

  5. ^ Oh, James D'Arcy is FANTASTIC in the Marple episode!

  6. As probably one of the last people on earth who hasn't yet read Austen's books, I've been enjoying the Masterpiece productions. But your post was a real eye-opener, Camster. Obviously any movie version always has to leave a LOT out. And I recently ordered the complete set of Austen's books from Amazon, so I'm really looking forward to getting the full effect.

  7. I'm with Myra in that I haven't read Austen's novels either. I was so excited when I saw that Masterpiece was doing her works. I like the shows. Best thing on TV right now, but then, that's not exactly saying much. After reading Camy's comments, I'm more eager to read the books though.

  8. Yes, I heard awful things about this one from the Austen blogging "experts" too.

  9. I too have enjoyed the Masterpiece Theatre productions. I have only read P&P so what do I know. But Fanny's lipstick was ANNOYING.