2/1/08

Mansfield Park (2007)

Mansfield Park
Billie Piper (Fanny), Blake Ritson (Edmund), Hayley Atwell (Mary), Joseph Beattie (Henry)

Directed by Iain B. MacDonald

Plot: Fanny Price, a quiet and sweet poor relation, comes to live with her mother's family and falls in love with her cousin. But ah! He's in love with a London girl who thinks only of parties and hurting people. I wonder if they'll have a happy ending?

Poor ITV. They try. They really do. But compared to gorgeous BBC productions that revel in sumptuous costumes, lush scenery, and lovely tension, this ITV adaptation showed its inferiority. The adapted screenplay was, well, lacking. Nothing about the original language remained, and the pacing left me watching the clock mid-way through.

Rose and the Doctor in The Unquiet DeadBillie Piper tried, but she wasn't given very much to work with. All of her sparkle and humor in "Doctor Who" was notably absent. Costume folks decided to leave her hair down--perhaps because she was the poor relation and therefore didn't have a handmaiden--but every time she shook the hair out of her eyes, I saw Rose. Where the hell's the Doctor? Maybe Rose was trapped in the past for a bit, period costume and all, and needed rescuing. The sudden arrival of the TARDIS would've livened things up.

Part of the problem is Mansfield Park, the novel. It's not suited to adaptation because Fanny Price is a character whose sole purpose is observation. She is our window into the world of her family, which Austen created as a means of social satire. We're not supposed to relate to Fanny so much as see things through her eyes while Austen points out varied character flaws in her creations. Thus she's a quiet character. She lurks in the background. Any cleverness she displays can be found in her observations, which are obviously better suited to the pages of a novel than to a film.

As a result, Fanny Price is no Lizzie Bennett or Elinor Dashwood or even Emma Woodhouse. She has no clever lines and lacks a strong presence. Everything she does and says is filtered through the motivations of other, more forceful characters. Thus Fanny comes off as insipid and terribly passive. She does not made for a relatable, watchable heroine. All this director thought to do to add depth to her personality was to have her chase younger cousins and chase puppies and play badminton--because that means she's high-spirited, doncha know, and she doesn't care what others think of her.

The hero, Edmund, suffers from a similar problem. He's a clergyman, and what's worse, he's a clergyman who finds himself in love with a sexy and gregarious city girl. Gah. I hate that storyline. You know how some tropes work for a person and others don't? I adore when the heroine finds out she's been in love with the boy next door, because I generally like loyal, loving boy-next-door types (see Marianne's relationship with Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility).

I am not handsome and I have no spine.But I sincerely dislike when the hero finally finds out he's been in love with the girl next door. What a pain. I get frustrated at the heroine for being a mooning twit, and I dislike the hero for being so easily fooled by a pretty face. It goes back to that issue of worthiness. If the hero can't see the heroine for her goodness and wonder, he doesn't deserve her. I didn't even have the pleasure of senseless mooning, because I didn't find Blake Ritson at all attractive.

Just don't skewer me on my painful double standard. Can't help what I like.

This adaptation played Edmund's "at last" realization scene very badly. What? They're sitting around in a parlor and Fanny recommends purple wool over maroon to her aunt--and TWANG? He's in love? And then the white wedding dress. And then the feckin' waltzing. Oh my. Just... just stop.

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