Mansfield Park

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Mansfield Park Movie Poster Image
Wonderful book adaptation with strong female protagonist.
  • PG-13
  • 1999
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

For early 19th-century Britain, the views of many of the characters on women's independence and the slave trade are remarkably progressive. The importance of being true to yourself and not compromising your values for the sake of wealth or safety is shown throughout, through discussion and example.

Positive role models & representations

Fanny Price is imaginative, hardworking, and true to her values, a woman who uses her mind to better her position. Although she is well aware of her position in a stratified society such as early 19th-century Britain, she is nonetheless unafraid to speak her mind when the situation warrants it.

Violence

Fanny finds a sketchbook in which slaves are depicted being whipped, flogged, lynched, and raped. 

Sex

A couple is caught having sex, with bare breasts partially visible. While rehearsing for a somewhat racy play, a woman asks the men around her, "Which one of you shall I make love to?" Some kissing, mild flirtation. The breasts of women in a sketch are exposed.

Language

African slaves on a ship bound for Antigua are referred to as "darkies." Mild profanity on occasion: "bastard," "damn," "goddamn."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Fanny's aunt is addicted to liquid opium, which causes her to nod in and out of conversations. Many scenes depict characters drinking and smoking socially; one character returns home on horseback stumbling drunk and slurring his speech.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there are mature conversations having to do courtship (including same-sex) and marriage in this period romance. Some messages regarding slave life and its myths could be offensive to viewers (for example, "Mulattoes are like mules; they cannot breed with each other"). However, the heroes in this movie assert that slavery of any kind is wrong and should be abolished. Some drinking, and one character is addicted to opium. A couple is caught having sex, showing skin on skin, with bare breasts partially visible. African slaves on a ship bound for Antigua are referred to as "darkies." Mild profanity on occasion such as "bastard." Fanny finds a sketchbook in which slaves are depicted being whipped, flogged, lynched, and raped. The slave women in the notebook are topless.

User Reviews

Parent of a 11, 14, and 16 year old Written bycmdfamily January 19, 2014

Commonsensemedia Dropped the Ball

I rely heavily on this website to determine whether or not a show is appropriate for my kids and teens to watch. I am shocked to find the inaccuracy of this re... Continue reading
Adult Written byPeriodMovieLover January 3, 2012

Very sensual scene and violence toward slaves that did not need to be there

Firstly the violence toward slaves was sickening. I know so many atrocities happened, it is painful to watch. And the intimate scene that is walked in on in t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPoppy.bath February 13, 2016

good lord!!

found this on tv one night and started watching with my sister and dad, when it came to the part with the note book of slave rape stuff we all looked at each ot... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byThePro27 June 15, 2016

For the Story

The sex scene is quite graphic as well as the drawings in the sketch book. But both aren't there for the sake of it, they both have consequences and drive... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor) is from a large and very poor family. When she's a young girl, she's invited to stay with rich relatives as something between a servant and companion. She is befriended by her cousin Edmund but ignored by his dissolute older brother Tom and his selfish sisters, neglected by their parents, and bullied by her aunt, also a poor relative under their care. She grows up reading everything she can and doing her best to get along with everyone. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary, both wealthy and attractive, come to stay nearby. Omni-seductive, they are both weak-willed and manipulative. They charm everyone but Fanny, creating many crises of honor and reputation.

Is it any good?

This is not your mother's MANSFIELD PARK. Director Patricia Rozema has effectively removed the book's frail and mousy -- if resolutely honorable -- heroine and replaced her with some amalgam of Austen's feistier characters plus a dash of Austen herself. Then she throws in a bit of Jo March, Susan B. Anthony, and even Scarlet O'Hara for good measure. The movie version's heroine is far more cinematic than the Fanny Price of the book, and the adaptation works remarkably well. Less successful is the attempt to import 20th-century sensibility on issues such as slavery (Fanny's wealthy relatives own slaves in the West Indies) and some wild anachronisms (Fanny lies casually on her bed while she talks to her male cousin; neighbor Mary Crawford even more casually smokes a small cigar).

The movie is sumptuously produced. Australian actress Frances O'Connor is terrific as Fanny. To use one of Austen's favorite words, she is "lively," but she also is able to show us Fanny's unshakable honor and dignity. Playwright Harold Pinter is outstanding as Lord Bertram. One of the great moral crises of the book is whether the young people should put on a play (Answer: They should not because it would create too great an intimacy). But Austen never shied away from having characters make ineradicable moral and social mistakes, and most of her books feature at least one couple who runs off together without getting married and suffers some serious consequences. Perhaps in frustration over the difficulty of making those actions seem real to today's audiences, or perhaps simply as a way of making a classic work seem unstuffy, this movie has more implicit and explicit sexuality than we have seen in other movies based on Austen's books (except maybe Clueless).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the issues raised by the movie, including the family's dependence on slaves in the West Indies to maintain their luxurious lifestyle. What do you know about this time period? How do you imagine you would have felt about slavery had you lived then?

  • Talk about the limited options available to women that led Fanny's cousin Maria to insist on marrying a foolish -- but wealthy -- man. How have gender roles changed since this time period? What is our modern perspective on Fanny and Maria? How is it different from how many would have viewed them in their own time?

  • Are period films appealing? What techniques do filmmakers use to transport us back in time? Are some techniques more effective than others?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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