Thursday, April 19, 2012

Masterpiece Theatre: Great Expectations

With 2012 marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth, Masterpiece has decided to present new adaptations of two of his works. The first is one of Dickens' most enduring works; the story of an orphan boy who finds himself swept up in the life of a ghostly spinster and her beautiful adopted daughter. This adaptation stars Douglas Booth as Pip, Vanessa Kirby as Estella, Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, and David Suchet as Jaggers. Here are some of my thoughts:

-It has been awhile since I read Great Expectations, and it wasn't really my most favorite of his works, so I wasn't overwhelmingly excited about this one. All in all, it stayed pretty true to the story as I remember it. The first major change I noticed was that Wemmick is not as big a part in this adaptation and the Aged Parent is missing completely, thus losing a lot of the humor that Dickens put into the novel. The other major change is the ending. I really don't remember Dickens' ending (either of them) resembling the happy get-together of this one. Not enough changes to make me hate it, but mainly because I don't remember that many details from the story.

-I thought that Gillian Anderson was very good as Miss Havisham, though nowhere near the caliber of Lady Deadlock in Bleak House. I liked how she really let her inner frailness, bitterness, and need for love come through instead of simply playing her as a demented old woman. Her standing there constantly rubbing and picking the scab on her hand was a great image of how she constantly kept her own emotional wound open and bleeding.

-The cinematography in this was very interesting. The people were so bold in front of the background scenes that at times it was almost like watching a moving painting. And the scenes on the moors were especially eerie and gloomy. Also, if you are a fan of Little Dorrit, you may have noticed how the Marshalsea became Pip's apartments and Bleeding Heart Yard became Herbert Pocket's place of work.

-One of the things that I do remember from the book is that Estella is supposed to be stunningly beautiful. And none of this is to say that Vanessa Kirby isn't pretty, because she is. But Douglas Booth is handsome in the extreme, like underwear model good-looking. This makes Estella (and pretty much everyone else) pale in comparison.

-To me, Joe Gargery is the best thing about this story and the poor guy keeps getting screwed by those he loves most. Makes you want to cry.

This adaptation is certainly not on par with Little Dorrit or Bleak House, and based on the reviews out there it seems to be a like it or hate it type film. If you haven't read the book or have not read it in a long time (like me), you will probably find this one interesting and even satisfying. If you think that Great Expectations is the best thing Dickens ever created, then you might want to give this one a pass.

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