Well, what do you know? I really liked it! The most recent production that showed on Masterpiece Theater’s The Complete Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, was the best yet. Yes, it suffered from the same time problem as the other productions, but other than being a bit rushed I really can’t complain at all. The casting was excellent, the few changes to the story served the film well and didn’t take away from the novel, and most importantly they were able to make Fanny sympathetic and relatable to a modern audience while still retaining the essence of the character.

I had hopes for this production since MP has always been my least favorite of Austen’s novels and I am more able to set aside my purist tendencies. At the same time, I’ve often felt that it would be a difficult novel to adapt because the heroine is so timid – the temptation would be to change her too much (as happened in the 1999 version with Frances O’Connor). I believe this production found a happy medium. They were able to show how Fanny’s life was formed by being raised as a “poor relation” and showed her sweetness and propriety without having her come off as a total prude or a wet blanket. Very nicely done by Billie Piper.

Blake Ritson made an excellent Edmund Bertram, and the secondary characters were all quite good as well, particularly Mary Crawford and Maria Bertram. Last week, I couldn’t fully enjoy the production of Northanger Abbey, even though the leads were very good, because the changes to the plot and to some of the characters detracted from the story (in my opinion – I know a lot of people liked it). This time, though, the changes were more seamless and served the story well. If there was anything that distracted me, it was the mix of fashions, but I’m not going to quibble over that because as much as I love costumes, the really important thing to me is how the essence of the novel is put on the screen, and in that respect this production is a success.

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