Mansfield Park

on November 19, 1999 by Susan Green
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   Just when we thought there couldn't possibly be any Jane Austen stones left unturned, along comes Miramax with "Mansfield Park," a picturesque pastiche of the author's letters, early journals and 1814 novel of the same name. In the hands of Patricia Rozema ("I've Heard the Mermaids Singing"), the book has been pared down and the screenplay pumped up as a biography that fits the director's contemporary agenda.
   With the click of a mouse, she deleted Fanny Price's "repressed anguish," to paraphrase the production notes, reconfiguring the female protagonist as something of a feminist icon. This adapted Cinderella story-in which the impoverished Fanny finds her soulmate after going to live with upper-crust relatives-even drops what seems to be unspoken lesbian longing into the mix.
   Rozema's style, such as a dizzying hand-held camera in some early scenes, often intrudes on the plot rather than enhancing it. And because Fanny is so resolute from the get-go, there's never any real sense of peril when the stakes should be very high. Nevertheless, just enough sardonic wordplay pokes through to keep the Jane Austen in this Jane Austen.    Starring Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Harold Pinter, Lindsay Duncan, Sheila Gish, Hannah Taylor Gordon and Sophia Myles. Directed and written by Patricia Rozema. Produced by Sarah Curtis. A Miramax release. Historical drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 111 min.
Tags: tarring Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Harold Pinter, Lindsay Duncan, Sheila Gish, Hannah Taylor Gordon and Sophia Myles. Directed, written by Patricia Rozema, Produced by Sarah Curtis, Miramax, Historical drama
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