`Mansfield Park' Spices Up Austen: Sex, Drugs; Only Rock 'N' Roll Missing
Grenier, Cynthia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Nudity. Sex. A dash of lesbianism. Drugs. Alcoholism. Pornographic drawings. Why, they're all part of the latest film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, of course. What else?
Mind you, Canadian director-writer Patricia Rozema says she was influenced particularly in her interpretation of Austen's third novel - "Mansfield Park" - by revisionist-feminist critic Margaret Kirkham, who saw the novel as embodying "Jane Austen's most ambitious and radical criticism of contemporary prejudice in society and literature." That still doesn't really explain the nudity and such.
Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor), one of seven children living in borderline poverty in Portsmouth, England, in the early 19th century, is taken into her wealthy uncle and aunt's home to be something more than a servant but less than a member of the family.
Her two girl cousins, Maria and Julia, snobbish and petulant, largely ignore Fanny. The second son in the Bertram family, Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller), however, takes little Fanny under his wing and becomes her devoted friend as they grow up together. Fanny keeps a journal and writes stories, which she shares with Edmund, who encourages her writing.
Enter an attractive brother and sister - Mary (Embeth Davidtz) and Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) who soon become close friends with the Bertram family. Sister Mary fancies Edmund, who in his quiet way is quite giddy about her, while Cousin Maria clearly prefers Henry to her wealthy clod of a fiance, but to no avail.
Sir Thomas Bertram (playwright Harold Pinter) returns home from a prolonged trip to his estate in Antigua, getting the family finances in shape, thanks to slave labor. In her novel, Austen mentions the slave trade, but it is a relatively brief passing reference. Miss Rozema has Fanny carry forth on the subject like Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Sir Thomas, appraising Fanny with an appreciative and lecherous eye, declares her to have grown into a very attractive young woman, one whom he will not mind admitting to the family. …