It just so happened Andrew became a Kernel after this screening – so thanks for joining the team Kernel Andrew 🙂
Big thanks to Andrew for attending this one – the rest of the Salty team could not make the screening and Andrew is Dara’s plus 1, viewing partner in crime and he volunteered to spread some salt – thanks for a great review Andrew and for assisting the Salty team!!
Great Expectations is a novel that has been a regular staple for film, television and Stage adaptations from 1917 till the present. There have been 15 film and television versions and 3 stage plays. This Mike Newell directed and David Nicholls adapted version is the 16th. I must confess I am a lover of Dickens and the 2011 BBC 3 Part serialised version was quite excellent. The themes, characters and message make it deserving of the title of “Great English Novel” so my curiosity was piqued. The movie was funded by Lionsgate and the BBC so I was sure with this cast and the commitment to British drama that the BBC has the audience would be in for a thrill.
The principal cast has some fine actors and personal favourites: Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and the oft brilliant Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Havesham. The two principal characters of Pip and Estella played by Jeremy Irvine (and as a young boy by his brother Toby) and Holliday Grainger. Rounding out the cast Robbie Coltrane as Mr Jaggers and a surprising performance by Jason Flemyng as Joe Gargery.
Helena Bonham Carter – no costume required – this looks like her casual attire
As a very brief summary the story transports the viewer back to England in the mid 1800’s and is set among the Kentish marshes where our principal, Pip, spends his youth being raised by his sister and her husband and seemingly destined to be a blacksmith before his encounter with Mrs Havesham and her ward, the beautiful Estella, a girl who under the tutelage of a completely deranged Mrs Havesham seems destined to grow up to break the hearts of men. A role selected for her by Mrs Havesham who had her heart broken on her wedding day, the trigger to her present day madness and loathing of all men. Sensing that the children Pip and Estella are becoming close, Mrs Havesham engineers their separation much to the heartbreak of Pip. It is in this background that Pip meets Magwitch an escaped convict who, Pip, out of the goodness of his heart helps with food and drink before he sees him taken away by the authorities. The story then shifts to an older Pip, who given the opportunity, he believes from a mysterious benefactor to become a “gentleman” sets off for London to not only claim the life he believes he needs as well as the heart of Estella the girl with no heart. As you can see the story is epic and vast. I won’t spoil the rest of it for you the reader and potential viewer. The story tells of good and evil, snobbery and love, and of dealing with forces that are beyond our control and how we, as people, deal with this.
The marsh locations of Pip’s childhood are fantastically painted by John Mathieson who seems to be able to really build a picture of the oppressiveness of Pip’s predicament in Kent then transport the viewer to a dirty London filled not only with squalor but amazing riches of the upper class when Pip becomes the gentlemen he so craves.
From the outset it seems that Newell and Nicholls have used more of the novel than other adaptions I have seen and herein lies a bit of an issue. We are talking about a large novel, which although the movie goes for just over 2 hours, seems after the slow paced first act to be quite rushed from the middle to the end. Scenes flash by quickly and pivotal moments are given a brief treatment before we charge along with the story, the feeling of letting the story breathe vanishes and we go through scene after scene at a terrific pace. That being said the movie is immaculately designed (the sets and costumes are fantastic) and seamlessly edited, none of the direction or camera placement interferes with the acting which is excellent from Fiennes, Gargery and Carter. Bonham Carter, who let’s face it, plays crazy and deranged better than most was born to play Mrs Havesham at some stage and just for this I would say go and see this movie. Ralph Fiennes shows us why he is so highly regarded and Joe Gargery and Robbie Coltrane put in solid performances. Sadly it seems to me that the two principals on whom the camera plays off a lot are overwhelmed by the company that they are keeping. Don’t get me wrong they are credible but really the scenes with the two of them alone seem to be missing the heavyweight support cast and I found myself much more interested in their plight as characters than the two who I should be concentrating on.
I have the feeling that was this cast and crew given the ability to make a longer version perhaps 3 hours or so these issues would have disappeared and if the film had kept up with the promise of the first act we would be witnessing a great adaptation of this fantastic story. For those that haven’t seen this I would suggest the excellent 2011 BBC TV Series and for those that have I would say give it a look as you will be familiar with the storyline and Bonham Carter is worth the price of admission. An opportunity wasted I think – 6.5/10 insane Helena Bonhams for this one. Great Expectations releases March 7th in selected theatres across Australia.