This has been a somewhat lengthy series so far , but now it’s time to look at the first part of Mansfield Park, which is supposed to be two hours or so.
9:13PM: Clearly the BBC had a small acting budget for this one. Some of the acting is a bit “stagey” even at the very beginning. How did Mrs. Bertram and Mrs. Norris ever attract someone with their voices. Fanny Price looks rather bored in the chaise and four en route to Mansfield Park. Mrs. Norris’ attempts to have the Bertrams take the girl are entertaining. I can definitely relate to Mr. Norris’ gouty complaints.
9:16PM: The movie does a really good job making Mrs. Norris look as unappealing as possible. Fanny Price is a competently timid child actress. Mrs. Bertram is a polite lady, full of lassitude, and Mr. Bertram is severe but not unkind. At least some of the characters are cast well, but this film definitely lacks some of the extras, and the sound editing is lacking.
9:21PM: Edmund and Fanny make an interesting pair of children walking around in a friendly fashion. It seems uncomfortable to picture these two as a couple, although Fanny is certainly an appealing girl. She seems like someone I would find dear and lovely if I knew such a person in life, and the actress they chose to play her is quite appealing and cute and sweet.
9:25PM: Mr. Norris walks around pretty well for someone with “gouty troubles.” Now Fanny is a teenager, and is still pretty appealing, although the sound editing is pretty uninspired. And now it is time for the funeral of the barely seen Mr. Norris. Not even a funeral can keep Mr. Bertram from lecturing Tom or Mrs. Norris from causing trouble for others. Mr. Bertram tries to guilt trip Tom into feeling guilty for his profligacy–perhaps sending him to the plantation in Antigua would be a good idea. I wonder how much debt it would take to cost Edmund hundreds of pounds a hear. Probably a lot.
9:30PM: Enter Dr. Grant, who is destined not to live very long. Short-necked and apoplectic sounds about right. Mrs. Norris gets around to mooching right away, and Mrs. Grant has to smooth over Mrs. Norris’ ruffled feathers. It is good that Mrs. Norris is good at economizing, since she will need to do so later. It is remarkable to see how unwilling she is to take care of Fanny, who appears to be the least demanding teen girl to take care of that one can imagine. And the estates of Antigua are mentioned here again.
9:35PM: Mrs. Norris is going to regret telling Sir Tom that he would not regret being in charge of his daughters. That doesn’t go well (/foreshadowing alert). The leave-taking is rather anticlimactic, partly because Sir Tom is among the wettest blankets one can imagine. Nice equipage though. As soon as he is gone Mrs. Norris throws Mariah in the way of Mr. Rushworth, which was not her best decision ever. It is a shame that Fanny has to read to the sleepy Mrs. Bertram instead of going to the ball in Southerton though. It’s interesting to see that the adaptation conspires to keep the viewer from getting to see or hear Mr. Rushworth until after the raptures of the expected marriage. Things 12,000 pounds a year can get you: the idea of being an eligible match despite no sense.
9:41PM: The letters of Fanny to William are a good way to keep the plot going on. Mrs. Norris’ petty cruelty to Fanny is notable here. A horse of her own does not appear like too much of a problem, although Mrs. Norris acts like it is buying another property or something of that nature. It’s not like Edmund is buying a duck boat or some such thing. It is a great shame that the dialogue for this adaptation is so dully read though.
9:45PM: Tom Bertram is definitely pretty tanned. He looks like he’s been visiting the tanning beds in Antigua. Tan l’orange. And how we get to meet Mr. Rushworth, who looks like he’s eating most of his 12,000 pounds a year, and at least looks friendly, even if he’s not the most clever. “More to love,” our hostess says, rather kindly. And now the Crawfords enter, and they are interesting company. The plan of Mrs. Grant to marry off her siblings is particularly unappealing. Are those painted eyebrows on Henry Crawford? Dreadful. He looks like he’s about to join a Regency emo band. The London scene starts early. Complementing a gentleman’s makeup artist seems rather a left-handed compliment at best. Can that makeup artist help out Mrs. Norris?
9:52PM: Watching the Bertram girls quarrel over Henry Crawford is deeply bothersome, especially given how foppish he appears, with his summer teeth and his mincing manners. Mary Crawford is at least appealing looking, although rather overly sophisticated. Is Fanny “out”? That’s a conversation that is funny but also deeply disturbing. And then we get to see Mr. Rushworth prattle on about the improvement of Southerton. “I demand a shrubbery” intones Mrs. Bertram. “Cut down an avenue, doesn’t it make you think of Cowper,” says Fanny, getting her literary allusions correct at least. Mary Crawford brags about her harp, little knowing that in only a few years it will be played by such upstarts and arrivistes as the Musgroves.
10:02PM: Rears and vices–that glorious pun, makes its way here. There are at least three meanings of this, and it is in vain to entreat Mary Crawford not to pun. How lovely for Mrs. Norris to invite herself and everyone to a party at Southerton. Edmund’s asking Fanny what she thinks about Mary, and the way that Mary spoke about her uncle, is rather unjust. It is intriguing to see Mrs. Norris be unkind and for Edmund to be less sensitive to Fanny when Mary is around.
10:12PM: Listening to the discussion about the outing to Southerton is rather unfortunate. And the ride itself is rather full of idle chatter, and shaky camerawork. Did they hire the Blair Witch directors for the task? The tour of Southerton is interesting, although it is rather disappointing to see that prayers in the chapel were discontinued. I’m quite with Fanny that it is a shame when religious devotionals are left off. After some jokes about having a wedding, Mr. Rushworth leads the group in a tour of the grounds looking at the property only as something to be improved, not something to be appreciated and enjoyed. Fanny Price gets to be an awkward third wheel with Edmund and Mary talking about the benefits of an honorable clergyman.
10:22PM: Fanny now gets left to sit in the woods, being a rather frail girl unable to exert herself heavily. And now the others get to the locked gate, and Mr. Rushworth doesn’t have the key, so he has to rush back to the house and get it while Mariah and Mr. Crawford are left to idle flirtation in front of Fanny, full of meaning. And then, of all people, Julia comes, and is of course the least enjoyable company one could imagine, except perhaps for Mrs. Norris, who is not far away. The sound of vultures adds an excellent touch to the scene. They must have come for Mr. Rushworth. Fanny is honest, but at least somewhat kind to Mr. Rushworth, which appears to be a bit rare.
10:32PM: Mrs. Norris is immensely tone-deaf about the blessings of the day, blind to everything that does not give her pleasure or give her the chance to censure others. Mary’s discussion about the sacrifices of Mariah and Edmund is rather cynical. It’s time to sing a glee, and Edmund and Fanny alone do not join in it. Fanny goes for ponderous and weighty dialogue as a way of encouraging her cousin, and they have an enjoyable time stargazing.
10:37PM: Mr. Yates and a fiddler arrive to the Mansfield Park party. “Young people so well suited,” not something one should say about Mariah and Mr. Rushworth. It’s a shame that Tom doesn’t like dancing much, making Fanny sit down the whole night. Mr. Yates is an interesting fellow to get to know. When Mrs. Norris invites Tom to play cards it’s time to dance, and Fanny will do. And now it is time for Lover’s Vows, one of the most unfortunate plays. Mr. Yates is almost as foppish as Henry Crawford. I suppose the Napoleonic War left a lot of the less brave population behind in England.
10:42PM: The matter of private theatricals is an interesting one, with the debate dealing with matters of reputation, honor, expense, and morality. Fanny works on her needlework while trying to encourage Edmund concerning the play. It is not quite enjoyable to see the other young people talk about the plays they are to do, and the roles. The arguments over the play’s suitability are rather frustrating, because there is a great deal of shadow in terms of the argument. How interesting that the acting in this movie itself resemble amateur theatrics.
11:03PM: They’re still doing the line for Lover’s Vows, and it’s still terrible. I forgot just how much of the play is taken up with the play. And now there are some passionate kisses between Mariah and Mr. Crawford, which is definitely inappropriate. Now Fanny has to read the lines with everyone, with Rushworth, with Mary, which is quite distressing.
11:13PM: Mr. Bertram returns, and it is interesting to see everyone act more restrained and dishonestly with him about. Angry scene in 3….2…1….Mr. Bertram isn’t going to like his room/library being turned into a stage for Lover’s Vows. No indeed. Mr. Yates’ ranting was never more out of place. Mr. Bertram is surprisingly restrained. “Sir, who are you?” That’s a great beginning, to be sure. It is nice to see Mrs. Norris concerned about the waste, rather than the concern about morality, and focusing on the marriage of Mariah and Mr. Rushworth rather than the immorality of the play or the impropriety of Mariah’s conduct.
11:21PM: Part one is over with the departure of Henry for Bath. It’s time to wrap it up for tonight.
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