Great Expectations (12A)

Directed by Mike Newell
Based on a novel by Charles Dickens
Screenplay by David Nicholls
Screening at FACT from 30th November 2012

Reviewed by John Owen

In a masterful retelling of the Dickens classic, our great staple of British acting profession is out on display, for my money the winner with a scene stealer is Ralph Fiennes as the convict Magwitch, who sets the ball rolling for dear old Pip (Jeremy Irvine).

A story probably watched more at Christmas and the David Lean version in black and white springs to my mind, as frightened Richard Lester of Oliver fame is grabbed by Magwitch on the spooky graveyard.

Why another version of Dickens?

Well, one thing is it’s nearing that time of the year, yes come round quick this time hasn’t it? So telly treats are on. This film has a TV feel about it. The BBC helped fund it and whether it was made for US network consumption, I don’t know. But the plot thickened for me from the start it was in colour - always a plus.

Helen Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham is delightful as the spooky jilted bride stranded in the mausoleum of her stately home. A wicked and spiteful old hag, but still human with a touch of pathos, very gothic and Tim Burton style. Robbie Coltrane as the scheming lawyer Jaggers didn’t look, sound or move like him in my opinion. A sterling performance nonetheless - a rerun of his role in From Hell; dour, dry, circumspect, atypical and yet utterly believable.

Estella (Holliday Grainger) is a cold hearted beauty groomed by Miss Havisham, who steals Pip’s heart in order to break it, looked terrific and the young handsome Pip couldn’t help falling for her charm. Their on screen chemistry was hit and miss though. She turned on and of like a shower, hot cold wind then storm; his head was up in the air mooning over her was a full time hobby for him - that is when he wasn’t out carousing with the Finch’s drinking club for young gentleman. A sort of bikers pub for Hell’s Angels of its day.

Social commentary of life in the period, harsh penalties for crimes of the poor, from transportation to the new world, hanging or debtors prison or worse - these are backdrops canvasses used as devices by Dickens to explore the personal dramas in the life and ambitions of a man with great expectations as Dickens an orphan himself was pip pip! A waste of three hours of my life which I’ll never get back, but an enjoyable one.

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