Valentine Marathon: Mansfield Park (1999)

I’m kind of skipping ahead and hesitated a little before watching this one.  For some of you, you’ve been aware that I’m on The Classics Adventure, a new long-term project launched this year.  I finally got my first review for the first Jane Austen book yesterday.  That was for Sense and Sensibility. Finishing up my first book and waiting for the movie to be delivered so I could review it. I’ll probably try to get it in for this Valentine Marathon also, if all goes well (which it should). Either way, I’m all hyped up on Jane Austen and I already reviewed Pride and Prejudice a little while back right HERE. As much as I’d like to wait to watch this after I read Mansfield Park, I convinced myself to watch this because I’m testing out whether I like reading Classic novels first before watching the adaptation or whether the other way around makes things easier.

Rambling aside, lets check out Mansfield Park! 🙂

MANSFIELD PARK (1999)

mansfield park

Director: Patricia Rozema

Cast: Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, James Purefoy, Sheila Gish, Harold Pinter, Victoria Hamilton

Due to her family’s poverty, her mother sends her eldest daughter, Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor), at a young age to go to live with her sister, Mrs. Norris (Sheila Gish) and the Bertrams.  As a little girl, she came realizing that she would possibly never leave Mansfield Park and be always viewed as lesser than her cousins.  The Bertrams never gave her much notice.  Thankfully, her imagination took her into books and writing fiction kept her company while her stay was also helped by the Bertram’s younger son, Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller) who befriended her upon her arrival.  As they grew up, Mansfield Park became her home and she got used to being unnoticed until the arrival of the siblings, Mary (Embeth Davidtz) and Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola).  Her beauty and wit brought on the attention of Henry Crawford while Edmund pursued Mary.  While Henry’s love was viewed well by everyone, Fanny had her doubts and challenges his truthfulness of those emotions.

mansfield park Mansfield Park carries a lot of character in this one.  Although there is no one that really has the whole big names attached to this production, there is a lot to love.  For starters, like many period productions/adaptations, the set is beautiful.  Mansfield Park and its surrounding estate, even Portsmouth and the trip and from carry such beautiful scenery and elegance.  I went into Mansfield Park, like many of my Valentine Marathon selections this year, and I fully expected to love it and it was for the most part, pretty awesome.  What makes Jane Austen ladies so lovable is the growth in the conflicts and situations they go through.  They also each have their certainty of whatever affection or emotion they have, which usually leads them to realize something more. In the hands of Frances O’Connor, who I’ve never seen anywhere before, she really captures that role.  Fanny Price may not be the centre of attention at Mansfield Park but Frances O’Connor’s portrayal of this role really gave it a lot of class and thought provoking moments and even at one point, I kind of hated how she dealt with Henry. Its kind of really brilliant that they had those inserts in the movie where she’s literally reciting a letter or something but she is talking to the camera.  Fanny Price is a lovely character in the Jane Austen world, I just can’t help to wonder if she may be more different in the novel.  I guess I’ll find out when I read it.

Mansfield Park

Moving on, I’m a little torn to say this because this may be where the movie lacks a little: Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram.  I rarely have an issue with the casting choices and I love Jonny Lee Miller.  Especially because he’s absolutely awesome as Sherlock in Elementary.  I was looking at his filmography and I’ve actually seen more of his roles than I even realized but although, Edmund is still a good character, I feel like there was something a little awkward.  He had okay chemistry in that whole building tension between them as friends but its just because it takes time to like Edmund and really appreciate his character.  Looking at this on a standalone character for Edmund, I can’t help but think that he could be a little more charismatic? But, maybe its because as a comparison, the appearance of Henry Crawford brings on so much charm that its overshadows his character.

mansfield park

Saying that, I think its time to take a look at Mary and Henry Crawford.  These two have this appealing appearance and they show how there really is no inner beauty to them.  They know how to look good and have a good place in society and all that pretty stuff, but when things don’t go their way, they are quite disrespectful in their personality.  They have a rather twisted way of living and they are actually pretty selfish for momentary pleasure.  And while these siblings are like that, Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz (who I’ve seen in other movies and enjoyed), they do a good job and being the contrast to say Fanny’s personality who is more reserved and Henry to Edmund’s.

Man, I’m going really into a character analysis that I probably will do for the book after I read it.

Point is, everyone does a fine job at their role in Mansfield Park.  The story itself and how its told actually gives Fanny a lot of appeal.  She is a really great Austen character. Although still rather strong-willed, she does have a lot of wit and her growth and choices gives her character development as well.  Although, it takes time to really appreciate Jonny Lee Miller’s Edmund appreciation, but his character is really well contrasted because of Alessandro Nivola’s Henry.  It has a good bit of romances and courting, some funny moments and some really nice self-reflection.  Its not exactly as great as the Pride and Prejudice movie (for example) but it has a lot of really great aspects as well 🙂 I’d definitely recommend it!

Have you seen Mansfield Park? Have you read the source material? What are your thoughts?

Best Laid Plans (1999)

Next up in recommendations was in response to my review on The Goonies (HERE) from Jack Flacco. He suggested me to check out Best Laid Plans for Josh Brolin‘s performance.  Jack has a wonderful site full of articles about zombies and he features a few very fun segments: Monday Mayhem, Women Who Wow Wednesday and Freedom Friday.  Definitely check it out if you haven’t yet.  For now, let’s check out what he asked me to watch.

best laid plans posterDirector: Mike Barker

Cast: Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Terrence Howard, James Marsh

In the small town of Tropico, within a few months, Nick (Alessandro Nivola) loses his father, the insurance money and needs money to get out of his current life.  He does end up meeting his girlfriend Lissa (Reese Witherspoon).  However, when his coworker Barry (James Marsh) lets him in a deal to drive away after a seemingly easy robbery, he gets tracked down the next day and to stay alive, he needs to be able to find money to cover his (uncompensated) cut and a bit more. When his school friend Bryce (Josh Brolin) calls him up out of nowhere, he derives the perfect plan to do it with a little help from Lissa.  Unexpectedly, a panic call in the middle of the night from Bryce proves that something went wrong with the initial plan and he has to figure out a way out.

best laid plans group

Best Laid Plans is a decent crime thriller.  At certain points, we really feel the intensity of the situation.  We have a pretty above average cast here with Reese Witherspoon being my favorite even though she didn’t have too much screen time. It has a good plot but somehow, it did take me a while to connect with all the characters as much, especially that of Josh Brolin’s  Bryce. Most of the time, I wanted to punch him in the face because he reminded me of the annoying classmates I had in high school.  Maybe he was supposed to be that way.

best laid plans alessandro and josh

Josh Brolin actually played a lesser part to the this movie’s lead, Alessandro Nivola’s Nick.  I really like this character actually and this guy really acted the hell out of the script.  He was possibly the character that I connected the most with, not that I ever got in any of his situations.  Its the calm nature that he has that made me wonder how he was going to get out of the situation he was in.

best laid plans reese witherspoon

I’ve always liked Reese Witherspoon.  I usually watch her in chick flicks (like Legally Blonde) but as Lissa and in her fake identity, she really was the one that had to sacrifice the most.  As much as I’d like to say, Nick was the loser in this, she lost a whole lot more especially seeing as the situation did go south.  Plus, Reese Witherspoon is definitely a charming actress.

best laid plans

BUT, you know what bothered me in this movie.  It was shot pretty well and the mood and tone was set well to match the situation.  Lighting was done good.  There was a great cast with an entertaining script BUT, I laughed at the ending.  The ending was the wrapping up the movie in the most unexpected way.  I have to give it this, it was original and unique but hell, if thats the morals of the story, its totally wrong to even want to know that.  If you saw this, you’d probably know what I mean, and you can email me or message me or something and tell me to see if thats what it was.

Overall, do I like this movie? I do say that its definitely a good entertaining movie with some good performances from the cast and an intense enough story however, beware of how you’ll feel at the ending.  My reaction was something like “WTF??? LOL *shakes head*” Thats just because I don’t enjoy ending particularly like that but after giving it a night to sleep on it, its not a bad movie.  It won’t ruin your day and maybe you might enjoy the ending and its just a personal preference for me.  Give it a shot, its worth that at the very least 🙂

Have you seen this? Do you like crime thrillers?

Thanks to Jack for recommending this to me! I loved the performances in this even if I wanted to punch Josh Brolin but I did enjoy Reese Witherspoon  a lot, and other than the ending, it was a pretty good movie! Remember to drop by his blog and show him some support 🙂