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Sir Thomas Bertram (Harold Pinter) is not pleased when his sister-in-law graciously volunteers his family to care for their impoverished ten-year-old niece, Fanny Price. With business affairs to attend to, an opium addicted wife (Lindsay Duncan), and four children of his own, Sir Thomas has little time or affection for Fanny. Only Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller), one of his two sons, befriends her. By listening to her many letters, stories, and secret journal entries, Edmund provides a refuge from Fanny's uncomfortable situation.
Now a young woman, Fanny has grown very fond of Edmund. But Edmund is eyeing someone else -- their new neighbor, Mary Crawford (Embeth Davidtz). Meanwhile Mary's brother Henry (Alessandro Nivola) is receiving a lot of attention from one of Edmund's sisters, but he is desperately falling for Fanny.
Often requiring a roadmap to figure out who is related to and in love with whom, this movie (loosely based on Jane Austen's novel by the same name) is not recommended for the plot-impaired viewer. Yet this is typical of her stories that involve a lot of gossip shared over tea sipping in countless drawing rooms, while Austen examines the moral decay of some of 19th century England's wealthy upper crust.
Unlike many of the recent film adaptations of this author, Mansfield Park includes a major subplot involving Sir Thomas's justification for raping black slave women. (The original book has only a one-word mention of the "slave-trade.") Later a sketchbook is discovered where we see Sir Thomas's escapades graphically portrayed.
And speaking of graphic portrayals, when a young couple is discovered having a sexual relationship, a scene with female nudity reveals far more than any other PG-13 movie I can recall. Likely the lack of any profanities or violence (other than the slave sketches) is what prevented this scene from getting this movie an R-rating.
With these content considerations and the fact that this film is not an accurate reflection of the book, parents may want to look for the original story as an alternative way to visit Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park is rated PG-13: for brief violent images, sexual content and drug use
Cast: Harold Pinter, Frances O'Connor
Studio: (pictures (c)2000 Miramax Films)