A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
Fanny finds a sketchbook in which slaves are depicted being whipped, flogged, lynched, and raped.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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African slaves on a ship bound for Antigua are referred to as "darkies." Mild profanity on occasion: "bastard," "damn," "goddamn."
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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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.