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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PPS re 27 Dresses and Mansfield Park

Not to overcook what I started in my P.S. yesterday, when i suggested that the recent Katherine Heigl movie Twenty Seven Dresses is, in some ways, a clever modernization of Mansfield Park.....but I had some fun last night skimming an online transcription of the film's dialog, to see what else popped out at me that seemed to connect to MP, and what I saw led me to realize that 27 Dresses is, in two different but related ways, a rewrite or "correction" of Mansfield Park itself.


First, the following lines in the movie obliquely suggest the screenwriter's unhappiness with the sordid aspects of life at Mansfield Park that Rozema (and recent scholarly research like mine) have brought out so vividly.

E.g., the following is what Tess says to Jane about Tess's wedding plans:

"Cousin Julie will be a bridesmaid, but Cousin Mimi is pregnant and won’t be!"

It's not much of a stretch to tweak those names into Cousin Julia and Cousin Maria (who is, as a result of her fence-hopping at Sotherton, in the same condition as Mimi by the end of the shadow story of MP).

The next line is Tess's explanation to Jane for how she managed to book the Boat House in Central Park for her wedding:

"But then the ninth time I called, they said they had a cancellation. Apparently the bride slept with the groom's father and brother...and sister and all these people. So, obviously, it got canceled and they were all devastated."

If you've seen Rozema's MP, and also think about the incestuous overtones of MP, I think I don't need to explain the significance of that line.

And the next exchange is between Jane and Kevin, when Jane confronts Kevin with his romantic newspaper columns about weddings:

"Do you actually believe in love and marriage and pretend to be a cynic...or are you a cynic who knows how to spin romantic crap for girls like me?" "I didn't follow that at all. But I think the second one, the spinning crap one." "Oh, my God. I feel like I found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich."

That last line is my favorite--but as I have claimed repeatedly, I do NOT think that the shadow stories (i.e., the "sandwiches") of JA's novels are what the "songs"
"really" are about-- I claim that the shadow stories are, instead--to extend the musical analogy---JA's own dark "covers" of her literary love songs. Two songs in one.


I also think the ending of 27 Dresses is a rewrite of the ENDING of MP itself, along the lines that have been suggested by Janeites going back a hundred years, i.e.,
that Fanny should have wound up with Henry, not Edmund, and that Mary should have wound up with Edmund. And the way 27 Dresses makes this happen, is that each of the four main characters changes (i.e., grows as a person) in such a way as to make these pairings work and feel satisfying romantically.

So that's why the Kevin (Henry C) character is such a cynical but charming jerk in the first half of the film, just like Henry C. But we watch him being transformed
by his interactions with Jane (Fanny P), and, unlike Henry C, learning to drop the cynical facade and reveal his inner Nice Guy. And similarly, Kevin transforms Jane
by bringing out some spunk and self-assertion in her formerly creepmousy self, and so Jane, unlike Fanny P, lets go of her longtime secret love for George (Edmund),
and really moves on, because George, even though he is a nice guy, is not worthy of her. So Jane and Kevin live happily ever after, "Fanny" and "HENRY".

And similarly, that's also why in the end of 27 Dresses, the George (Edmund) character is such a clueless nice guy at first but he gets his eyes opened about the
Tess (Mary) character, which is something George really needed to do, because he was so unaware of his own feelings and unalert to being manipulated by others, that
this was not a good way for him to be in the world. And the Tess (Mary C) character, conversely, gets royally chastened by being caught in all her lies, but, unlike Mary C, she takes being exposed as a big liar to heart, and at the wedding of Kevin and Jane a year later, we see Tess and George say hi for the first time since
their own wedding was aborted, and Tess is now being her true self, and who knows if they will connect again or not, at least there's a chance.

Cheers, ARNIE

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