Mansfield Park (2007) Movie — A Review

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s third novel was published in 1814. It’s reception by critics and readers has been mixed—not as light, bright, and sparkling as Pride and Prejudice nor as poignant and romantic as Persuasion. It is a complex story about identity, self-worth, and moral fortitude. It’s heroine Fanny Price has been criticized as being weak and timid, its hero Edmund Bertram as too biddable, and the secondary characters as corrupt and morally bankrupt. Ouch. That is quiet an introduction for a first-time reader to absorb. It is also one of the reasons why movie adaptations are difficult to pull off. Condensing Austen’s largest novel into a 90 minute or 2 hour screen drama is problematic. Now the new PBS & ITV adaptation is here for us to deconstruct. Let’s see how this Mansfield Park plays out. 

Complicated Characters

This adaptation presents a large and handsome cast portraying Austen’s complicated characters including the heroine Fanny Price (Billie Piper), a poor relation conscripted as a child into the household of her wealthy and privileged aunt and uncle, Lady (Jemma Redgrave) and Sir Thomas Bertram (Douglas Hodge) of Mansfield Park. By age eighteen, Fanny is basically a glorified servant to the family. Her indolent cousins: heir apparent and gambling boozer Tom (James D’Arcy), spoiled sisters Maria (Michelle Ryan) and Julia Bertram (Catherine Steadman), and her horrid Aunt Norris rule her world. The only one on the straight and narrow among this tribe is our pious hero Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson), Fanny’s only friend and love interest. Enter two scheming siblings: acerbic Mary (Hayley Atwell) trolling for a rich husband and her hedonistic brother Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) determined to make Fanny fall in love with him to “make a small whole in her heart,” and you have all the ingredients for an interesting story. 

Jane Austen Lite

So much of the original plot has been eliminated that after the first fifteen minutes I put aside my expectations of re-visiting my memories of Jane Austen’s prose and attempted to enjoy the essence of the plot and characters. Given the restriction of time for this adaptation director Ian B. MacDonald whips along at a frenetic pace touching on themes and condensing all of it’s action to one beautiful location, the house and grounds of Mansfield Park. Gone are the neighboring homes of the rectory of Mrs. Grant where the Crawford’s reside, the cottage of Mrs. Norris, Sotherton Court the estate of Mr. Rushworth, and the Price family residence in Portsmouth. One can only assume that these deletions were agreeable to the budget. Ack! I felt like I was on a Jane Austen restricted diet.

Standouts and Failures

The majority of actors were well cast with only a few exceptions. I tried to like Billie Piper as Fanny, unfortunately she had so little to say that I am not sure if I should blame it on her acting or the script, which had her stone faced in the sidelines dutifully fetching and carrying for her cousins and simpering on cue. When she finally stands up against her uncle Sir Thomas’ wishes for her to accept the proposal of Henry Crawford, I was not convinced by her actions or words that she could have been capable of pleading her case against such a strong patriarch.

Compelling Michelle Ryan 

Our hero Edmund Bertram’s best scenes were unfortunately not with our heroine, but played out with his love interest Mary Crawford. I was relieved that he was allowed to actually have more than a few lines with her. Their final scene together, ending his infatuation with her, was his best. My favorite performance was by Michelle Ryan as willful Maria Bertram. When she is on screen her presence was so compelling that it demands your complete attention. Other actresses with this same quality from the golden age of Hollywood such as Vivian Leigh or Ava Gardner learned to develop their acting beyond their striking beauty to command recognition. Miss Ryan is well on her way to stardom and I hope to see her in a more expanded capacity.

Muppet Hair

As for the production values, Mansfield Park was filmed at the stunning Newby Hall in North Yorkshire, a stately country manor built in Georgian era. The costumes and hair were adequate. The costumes had been appropriated and reused from previous Jane Austen adaptations. I must add that the designer did give us the requisite cleavage for the nasty female antagonist, and the big messy hair for the male cad. Thank you very much. I’m not sure that I would have been able to identify them otherwise. I was also amused to learn that the hair designer Mary Southgate had, in addition to her many credits in grand opera, worked as the hair designer on The Muppet Show. This may allow for the un-Regency like mop-top do of Miss Piper.

A Fools Errand

I was sad to see that the majority of the original nuances and wit in the novel ended up in the round file in this adaptation. In defense of screenwriter Maggie Wadey, she was hired for a fool’s errand. Condensing Austen’s 473 page intricately detailed work (Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen) into ninety minutes of screen time is an impossible task. I am still hopeful that one day we will have a longer and more detailed interpretation of Austen’s dark horse. There is merit in the story if the right screenwriter and production team have the insight, budget, and the guts to go for it. 

3 out of 5 Stars


  • Mansfield Park (2007)
  • Studio: ITV & PBS
  • Screenwriter: Maggie Wadey, based on the novel by Jane Austen
  • Director: Iain B. MacDonald
  • Cast: Billie Piper, Blake Ritson, Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, & Michelle Ryan
  • Length: 1 hours and 30 minutes


We received a DVD from the producer in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Images courtesy of Masterpiece PBS and ITV © 2007; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Updated 12 March 2022.

21 thoughts on “Mansfield Park (2007) Movie — A Review

Add yours

  1. Your review manages to capture precisely what is wrong with the film, while providing the reader with interesting facts at the same time. In my review I hone in on the film’s most glaring fault – its lack of fidelity to the actual drama, which is not whether Edmund will marry Fanny or Mary, but Fanny’s amazing ability to hold to her moral ground despite great emotional and material pressures from almost everyone around her.

    We both agree that we have yet to see a great Austen film emerge from this series. I’m having fun watching them, though. Second to reading a Jane Austen novel, there is nothing better than to watch a movie based on her work.


  2. Northanger Abbey had charm of a sort, but both Persuasion and Mansfield Park were deeply disappointing. It is almost as if the heroines in both were chosen for their lack of good looks. Both needed clean hair! and better styling. Small point, perhaps, but emblematic of the attention paid to these main characters. We’ve been waiting since the first announcement of this series for the wonderful treat in store for us. Unfortunately, we’ll have to go back to our DVDs to find Jane Austen at her best.


  3. I must add, after watching MP last night, that the dresses were not the only thing recycled. The music played during Fanny’s opening dance at her birthday picnic (odd as it seemed) was the same music played at the Meryton Assembly in P&P3 entitled “Meryton”.


  4. Excellent Review Laurel Ann.

    Truncated and disloyal are the two words that spring to my mind for this adaptation.

    I too was thrust into a most unwelcome reflection upon production budgets as, one after another, anticipated scenes were sacrificed to keep all the action down on the Manse. But when I realized that we would not be going to Portsmouth, I really lost all patience.

    Fanny is meant to be the moral compass by which every other character in the story is measured. She came across as a downtrodden bystander rather than as the exemplar of the ‘right line of conduct’ that Austen intended.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is a puzzle why people who write screenplays and direct them gush about the genious of Jane Austen and then proceed to alter her characters almost beyond recognition. They tried to turn Fanny into a silent, resentful Elizabeth Bennet. Fanny is delicate, shy and totally dominated by her aunt. This relationship, which was so key to the life that Fanny had to live, was almost totally ignored in this adaptation. Unfortunately for this series, Mansfield Park needs more time than 90 minutes to portray the complexity of the characters. As disappointing as it was, it was still a vast improvement over the last BBC Mansfield Park.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I ditched my TV more than a year ago, but I have the video of this Mansfield Park from the internet sitting on my laptop, unwatched. After reading reviews like yours and Ms. Place’s, I now can’t get myself to watch it.

    I think their dropping the Portsmouth visit was a terrible mistake. Was Lovers’ Vows in this production?


  7. I’m a few days late. It matters not. The only word that I can apply to this, this thing is despicable. Despicable.

    It horrifies me that Jane Austen’s masterpiece(s) are treated in this infamous manner. That said, the Mansfield Park “adaptation” (shudder) is the worst of all in this new round of treatments.


  8. After waiting so long and being so excited to have new Austen BBC productions – I must say that I have been very disappointed with each production. BBC should have produced one excellent production instead of three mediocre adaptions – Happy to see that the splendid Ehle and Firth “Pride and Prejudice” will be shown instead of a new production.

    I wish I could be happy with my new DVD’s, but I suspect that I will not often watch any of them.


  9. Where is Jane’s famous wit, humor, satire for which we all love her. Have these “adapters” even read her books? I was so relieved that they dared not try to adapt P & P.


  10. Hi Gayle, thanks for your contribution and comments. This adaptation was a far cry from the novel. Some people did enjoy it, but I am holding out for another attempt, hopefully in conjuction with the anniversary of it’s publication in 2014? It seems a long time to wait, but hopefully they can get it right by then.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann


  11. This version, to quote Dot Parker, “wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t seen a version of “MANSFIELD PARK” that I would consider perfect or near perfect. All three versions are heavily flawed. But I must admit that I found this adaptation bearable to watch. I refuse to label it as terrible.


  13. I’m so glad I’m not the only one! The 2007 adaption is TERRBILE. Although I may not be the best of authorities (I had to stop watching it after 10 minutes when I realized they not only skipped past Fanny’s youth but also the play), I’d recommend not seeing it. The portrayal of Fanny is totally off: she’s not seditious with contempt, but rather submissive with regret. I was leant this movie by my spoiled cousin who I would like to describe as the embodiment of the Bertram siblings (with the exception of Edmund); she highly recommended it to me, after I read the book – she would never pick up a book herself although she entertains a notion of her own intellectual superiority which is to say the least sickening. This only confirms to me how stupid she and how terrible the production actually is.


  14. The eyebrows!!! What were they thinking! It is crazy to have a lead with hair one colour and eyebrows another, it distracts in every single shot.


  15. watched this when it first out over in Britain and I was sorely disappointed – Billie Piper – totally wrong for the part and not a good enough actress. The 1995 P&P is not my favourite adaptation of this book, the earlier 1980 British TV programme is much better and I will not make a comment about the 2005 film

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Laurel Ann,
    I could not agree more. Was a disappointment, but your review was a delight to read. Brilliant, in fact!

    What did you think of the 1999 Mansfield Park movie? I actually really liked it b/c they put some of JA’s personality into the drab Fanny. It’s saucy.

    Sarah @WordHits


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