Friday, May 1, 2009

Masterpiece Theatre: Little Dorrit

After a marathon run of 5 episodes (8 hours total), Masterpiece Classic finished its showing of the newest adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit on Sunday night. Secrets were revealed, villains were brought to destruction, and our hero and heroine earned their happy ending. I really enjoyed it overall. Here are some of my thoughts on the film:
  • The plot was EXTREMELY confusing. It made Bleak House's long plot look simple. Characters popped in and out at random, various sub-plots never really seemed to mesh, and the whole Tattycoram thing fizzled in the end. However, I don't really fault Andrew Davies for most of this because from what I've read, most of the confusion lies with Dickens' original work. I think it will take me a few more viewings to really grasp what is going on.

  • The actors more than made up for any problems with the plot. Claire Foy was wonderful as the title character, bringing a strength and complexity to the role that kept her from being one of Dickens' typical heroines. It was great to see Matthew MacFadyen again, and he made Arthur Clennam one of the most likeable (if the most dense) heroes I've seen in a while. Other favorites included Ruth Jones as the silly Flora Finching, Eddie Marsan as Pancks, and Russell Tovey as the super sweet, brings me to tears John Chivery. But the highest marks have got to go to Tom Courtenay as William Dorrit. A simply brilliant performance!

  • The sets were awfully interesting. In most films, it doesn't really seem like you are on a set. But this one did. Everything was just off-balance enough (especially exteriors) to never seem quite real. Examples include the House of Clennam and Venice (which was rather obviously not filmed in Venice). I'm not saying that this was a bad thing, merely interesting.

  • Pretty faithful to what I know about the story, and I think that it really allowed Dickens' themes to shine through. I also liked how you could tell that every character was a prisoner in one way or another. Mr. Dorrit is a prisoner first of the Marshalsea and then of the past, Mrs. Clennam is a prisoner of her wheelchair and false piety, Mr. Merdle is a prisoner of his own schemes, and even sweet John Chivery is somewhat imprisoned by his job and his love for Amy.

Overall, though it is perhaps not as good as Bleak House, Cranford and North and South, it is still a wonderful production and definitely one of this season's best. Here are some of my favorite scenes:

  • William Dorrit's final descent into madness as he addresses the guests at the ball and welcomes them to the Marshalsea.

  • John Chivery's proposal to Amy. Heartbreaking, even if I didn't want her to accept him.

  • Flora Finching leaning against Arthur as they descend the stairs at her house.

  • Fanny finally gaining authority over the now ruined Mrs. Merdle.

  • Mrs. General teaching Amy to say "Papa, prunes and prisms".

  • Mrs. Plornish "translating" for Cavaletto.

  • The House of Clennam crashing down once the secret has been revealed.

  • The way Arthur begins losing himself in the Marshalsea, making you realize that Mr. Dorrit's experience was probably the same.

Up Next: Masterpiece Classic concludes with a new adaptation of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.

1 comment:

Selah said...

I really liked this movie. It is not as good as Bleak House, but still good. I was disappointed in some of the plot, though. First, (like you said) Tattycoram's part, secondly the hidden relationship of Mr.Cadsby and Miss Wade, and third how the Gowans were left hanging.
I really think the best and strongest characters in the story were Mr. Dorrit, Amy Dorrit, Arthur Clennam, and John Chivery.
I also thought that Pancks, Mrs Plornish, Affrey added a little bit of comic relief.
As the for the villain, Rigaud, I thought he was great. He would suddenly appear in, (what seemed like), the weirdest or most confusing times, adding to the suspense.
Overall, it was good, but definitely lacking in areas.