Great Expectations (TV Movie 1999) Poster

(1999 TV Movie)

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A real Masterpiece from Masterpiece Theatre
pekinman19 December 2004
I have always enjoyed the old David Lean version in spite of the fact that it is so abridged and has a "Hollywood" happy ending. This version of 'Great Expectations' knocked me back by its fidelity to the original book... I had not expected to see it filmed with the bittersweet and ambiguous ending that is employed here with such a powerful effect.

There is nothing in the nature of the usual cinematic mawkishness that so often accompanies adaptations of Dickens books to film. Nothing exaggerated, nothing glossed over. The characters are flesh and blood and their emotions are vividly characterized by a wonderful cast of performers.

Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling are fabulous as Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham. Rampling's Havisham is terrifying in her quiet way, like the ghost of a dead princess haunting her huge Satis House. Waddell's Estella is the truly tragic figure, as in the book. She has been prevented from developing the "loving mechanism" found in most human beings. Waddell's conveyance of this dilemma is profoundly moving. Gruffudd's highly responsive Pip is also deeply felt. Their younger counterparts, played by two wonderful young actors, Gabriel Thompson and Gemma Gregory, possess uncanny resemblances to Gruffudd and Waddell. One of the best transitions in time, as far as character development, I've ever seen.

The photography is utterly beautiful, the music haunting and memorable in its stark simplicity. It is rare that I notice the editing but this film is so perfectly put together that I took clear notice of the artistry at work in that department.

For Dickens addicts this film is a must for your collection; for lovers of great cinema I would say the same thing. This version of 'Great Expectations' SHOULD have been a major film release in the theaters. Even if it had been more than the four hours it takes in the TV adaption, longer even, I think it would have had a greater following than it enjoys.

Julian Jerrold's 'Great Expectations' joins the short list of the finest productions out of Masterpiece Theatre's stables, along with 'I Claudius', 'The Jewel in the Crown' and 'Brideshead Revisited.'

See it!
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Kate-7122 April 1999
This absorbing adaptation is a pleasure to watch. Inevitably some of the nuances of the novel, such as the turning of Pip from his roots, are made abrupt in this three hour adaptation. The acting is superb and not overly mannered. Ian McDiarmid makes a complex Jaggers, and Charlotte Rampling is ravishing and vulnerable as Miss Havisham. There are fine performances from familiar actors as Joe and as Abel as well. Ioan Gruffudd is a stunning Pip. An ideal romantic hero, as we have already seen in the Hornblower series, he is physically stunning and manages to act as well. (For my liking a bit more smoldering wouldn't go amiss.) I enjoyed his reading of Latin to Abel with a Welsh accent!
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Subtly changed version
pawebster1 May 2007
This is quite a good version, but be prepared for some oddities. The main one that Pip is made less nice than usual. His friendship with Joe is made to seem particularly one-sided, and he is extra reluctant to help Magwitch on the latter's return. Both young and older Pip are well played -- Gabriel Thomson deserves particular praise -- but we never feel that we really know the character. This is perhaps the main defect of this version. The voice-over in the old David Lean version was helpful there.

I personally don't like Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham. The role should not have been glamourised. Dickens does not do glamour. Estella is good however. Compare this performance with the oversweet Estella of the David Lean film.

By the way, this version has an excellent Herbert Pocket. The goody-goody characters in Dickens are not easy to play without sugary sentimentality, but Daniel Evans' Herbert really lives.
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Poor Execution
Spleen27 July 1999
`Great Expectations' is the best of Charles Dickens's novels. Maybe it's the best novel that there is. It's certainly a novel where every incident is important - so there is no excuse for a TV version being a miserable three hours long. If they HAD to truncate it, though, then there's no help for it: some valuable scenes must be removed.

What they've done instead is to sort of leave everything in, but skate over it all at high speed. It's as if they've simply left out every other sentence. The opening encounter with Magwitch in the churchyard is conveyed without being shown at all. We get a few seconds of terror, then a cut to later that evening, and then we're shown a bit more of the crucial scene in flashback - only just enough to understand what is going on, if that. (Don't even get me STARTED on the ludicrous editing, or the self-consciously arty camera angles.) Some scenes have been re-written. The result is usually awful.

Is this just the complaint of someone who has read the book, and finds the filmed version to be different? No: rather the reverse. If you haven't read the book you'll have a much harder time than I did even making sense of things; and you won't, as I did, have any particular reason to care about the characters.

For instance: the central character is Pip. Anyone who has read the book knows how close Dickens brings us to him. Not once in this version are we, so to speak, introduced to Pip. No scene lasts long enough - he does not confide in any other character long enough - for us to get a sense of his motivations or a reason to continue to sympathise with him after he does something shameful. What's more, the mature Pip is an utter disaster. The re-writing of key encounters with Miss Havisham, Orlick, and Estella (that's right - all three) makes Pip out to be more thoughtless, more cowardly, more vindictive and less intelligent than Dickens makes him out to be. (Note that Dickens doesn't make him out to be vindictive at all.) If we care what happens to him at all it's only because we have even less reason to care what happens to anyone else.

I've only scratched the surface - it's bad all the way through. I will, though, allow that many of the actors give excellent performances under trying circumstances. (I can't warm at all to Ioan Gruffudd as the mature Pip, but that was probably the script.) That's about it. I can't even recommend this as the best TV version going, since the Disney series of 1989 (a decent five hours long) is all that one could wish for. With that version in existence this one was just a waste of everyone's time. Don't make it a waste of yours.
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bigfatl1 August 2003
Whilst it has not stuck to the text word for word, it has not veered greatly from it. The film covers everything that needs to be covered on the whole, and where it has altered things, I think it has done so for the better. The film still paints and amazing picture of this excellent piece of literary work!

The casting was simply spectacular, the idea of sexing up Miss Havesham with the delectable Charlotte Rampling was perhaps the most unique and welcomed aspect of this production, which does anything but suffer from it. Waddell, Hill, Gruffudd, and Evans all give stellar performances and carry the film. The score is extremely haunting and so spectacular that I went out and bought the CD (which we were very lucky the BBC released). How Peter Salem has not been snapped up by Hollywood yet I don't know!

The score on top of the direction and production design make this a mouth watering feature that I'd recommend to anyone! The film got me through A-Level English.
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Captivating and beautiful
Kimberley (kimmb)2 August 1999
I've seen some three or four adaptations of this classic novel, and I honestly think that this is one of the best out there. The settings are appropriately dark and in keeping with Dickens' bleak writing, a shining example being Miss Havisham's mansion. The acting is perfectly superb; Ioan Gruffudd is most definitely one of the best finds of the past few years. Ian McDiaramid is wonderful as usual, and Gruffudd's Titanic castmate Bernard Hill (that movie's Captain EJ Smith) is a great Magwitch. Keep your eye on Ioan, I predict great things! His performance is outstanding, down to the replacing of his own Welsh accent with Pip's distinctive lower-class English one. Lovely filming, great direction and wonderful acting make this a great addition to the already distinguished collection of the BBC.
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Visually Stunning!
flyboy-714 December 2001
Director Julian Jarrold does a truly excellent job of bringing Charles Dickens' finest novel to the screen. Filled with haunting camera angles, a magnificent score by Peter Salem, and superb acting by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd and Justine Waddall, this version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS is defintly worth multiple viewings!!
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Freddie-625 July 1999
This would have to be the best three hours of viewing I have seen in years.The acting,locations and costumes were spot on. Mr.Dickens was probably turning in his grave at some of the 'adjustments'made to his original story.but I don't think this spoiled the viewing in any way.You have to give the English credit,they surely know how to make historical type movies.
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Wonderful acting, bleak story
AnnieMH18 May 1999
This is Charles Dicken's bleakest story by far, and for that reason alone I've always detested it. I made a point of seeing this production because Ioan Gruffudd was in it. I was not disappointed.

Once again, Mr. Gruffudd shows his ability to become the character, with a talent far beyond many better known young actors. His voice is so musical that one can avoid the story line and simply enjoy the sound.

Charlotte Rampling was a far more interesting Haversham than others I've seen. She had a slightly sinister quality just under the surface that was quite delicious.

Watch the production for the talent within. It's well worth your time.
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Too tasteful for its own good
T Y31 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is better than the Michael York 'Great Expectations' which is not worth your time. But some addled producer must have gotten it in his head that Dickens deserved the weightiness of Shakespeare. It doesn't. Almost all Dickens is low, rollicking and shambling, with fuzzy edges. His books don't have these overly tasteful aspirations. Here, a very good Dickens novel is given a straight, costume-drama, Masterpiece Theater production. And it attempts some regional verisimilitude that doesn't end up adding much. It seems designed to appeal to female viewers. Dickens characters are recluses, unbalanced eccentrics and weirdos, but here they've all been leveled out. Characters, settings, emotions, none of it ends up being as vivid as the David Lean version which has been more lovingly shaped. Every emotion in this is oh-so-serious with characters brooding over things that can't be spoken. It's like they all worked too hard on figuring out the "inner truth" and "motivation" of their characters. PFFFFT! To what end? It kills the story. They're so uptight they might as well be Swedish.

The story is better and more thoughtful when it's ambiguous and without a villain (See Lean). Miss Havisham is a bit of absurdity who should be treated almost as a caricature, though she certainly delivers some bombshells. It doesn't suit the story for her be played realistically like here. Orlick shows up in this version, but his value was never very important to the Pip narrative, except to include Dicken's usual villain. This Jaggers just cannot compare with Francis Sullivan's haughty power-brokering from '46. But the fatal blow is Ioan Gruffudd. At no point can a viewer decipher what his impenetrable, stone-faced Pip feels about anything. It's impossible to see him as anything other than a prop that is acted upon. The pacing is beyond lugubrious. Not an ounce of humor remains.
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Generally excellent, but is it the best version?
TheLittleSongbird4 January 2012
So far of this great Dickens work, I've seen three versions, the 1946 David Lean film, this 1999 adaptation and the recent 2011 series airing just at Christmas(the Alfonso Cuaron is top-priority on my to see list). I did find this adaptation to be excellent and solid enough as an adaptation of the book, but I questioned is it the best version.

While this version has for me the better adult Estella and young Pip, the Lean version for its masterly storytelling, the cleverly written narration from Pip's viewpoint so we can identify with him and how much atmosphere there is at the beginning I have always considered one of the all-time great adaptations of any of Dickens' work. They are both superior though to the 2011 series, which had great production values and a wonderful support cast, but it is hindered by some rushed pacing and two miscast leads.

Back to this adaptation, it is wonderful to look at. The costumes, lighting, sets and scenery look both striking and atmospheric especially Miss Havisham's mansion, and the haunting camera angles are equally good. The music score is magnificent, in fact I haven't heard a music score for a TV adaptation this good for a while now. The writing is intelligent and has the basic wit of Dickens' prose and the storytelling particularly with Miss Havisham is compelling.

Of the storytelling, I was engrossed throughout, but there were two things that didn't quite sit well with me. One was the ending, granted the closing line of the book is ambiguous, but to me the ending was reminiscent of a 19th century Can You Feel the Love Tonight, which I am not sure Dickens intended. Another is that there are moments when adult Pip is shown to have a somewhat vindictive side, which for some reason made me identify less with him.

That said, the direction is tight and assured, and I never felt the drama was sluggish or rushed. The cast are superb. Ioan Gruffodd has rarely been better than he was here, he does look very handsome(without being too much so that is) and he is charismatic. Of the three adaptations in regard to adult Estella, I think this adaptation is the only one to get it completely right, Lean's was competently portrayed if too sweet and the 2011 series had an Estella that was too plain and too expressionless. This Estella was complex and tragic, Justine Waddell as well as being very beautiful brought these across perfectly.

Great Expectations(1999) also has the best of the three young Pips in Gabriel Thomson. I liked Anthony Wager and Oscar Kennedy well enough, but Thomson looked cute and innocent while never coming across as bland. Gemma Gregory is excellent as well as young Estella. Of the adult support cast, there is much to credit. Daniel Evans brings Herbert Pocket to so much life, more so than any of his other acting counterparts, Emma Cunniffe proves an ideal anti-thesis to Estella and Tony Curran is very good as Orlick.

On top of that, we have a heart-breaking Joe Gargery in Clive Russell, Lesley Sharp shines as usual, Ian McDiarmid is a complex Jaggers and Bernard Hill is terrific as Magwitch. My personal favourite performance goes to Charlotte Rampling, she is a revelation as Miss Havisham, there is such a sinister quality to her performance I felt myself getting chills.

Overall, excellent with a great cast but for atmosphere and even better quality of storytelling I also heartily recommend Lean's film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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A Disgrace!
shatnes55115 April 2003
As a classic, Great Expectations is hardly done any justice with this film. I have seen the mini-series film on Pride & Prejudice and it was an almost literal reproduction of the novel. In contrast, this film just about assumes one has read the novel and pretty much depends upon it as well. There is absolutely no introduction, and as such, the tight relationship between Pip and Joe is entirely skipped over. The characterizations of the young Pip and Estella are altogether unbelievable, and there are many instances of this film veering from the text. Jaggers's most identifying property, his finger-biting and pointing/shaking is essentially deleted from the novel, and there is, in addition to that, a lot more left out for, I suppose, the sake of cutting the feature length.
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A beautiful and classy piece!!!
valerie-hoganfamily-fan20 September 2013
This one is surely my favorite rendition of Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations into a movie. The story is brilliantly told and masterfully executed thanks to the stellar performances by Ioan Gruffudd, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Evans and others.

Gruffudd's Pip is more believable and mysterious at the same time. He plays him very convincingly. Gruffudd should do more of period pieces as he does them SO artistically well. Such roles come to him so naturally. And his voice: He brings all the charm, music and pathos only by uttering his thoughts in words. You could linger on every word that he utters. Such is the beauty and spell of his voice!

Joe and Biddy are beautifully depicted. They bring joy to an otherwise sad story by their mere presence. Miss Havisham looks ravishing and tragic at the same time.

In my opinion, this is by far the finest version of the Great Expectations. I,therefore, highly recommend it to the true lovers of literature. They would not only love the movie but they would adore the book even more after watching this.

Its kinda sad to see that such masterpieces don't make their inroads into the mainstream Hollywood cinema. Coz if they do, I am certain that they would gain more popularity and recognition which pieces like this truly deserve in tons. All and all a beautiful beautiful period drama not to be missed at any cost.
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My expectations were met.
Leah Day16 April 2003
What can I say, this version of Dickens classic is beautiful. The casting is superb the script is nice and rich, the costumes were to die for. I can see why Justine Waddell favoured hers so much. What really caught my eye was the girl who played the younger version of Estella. What a great actress she is!

I really cannot say a bad thing about this film.

:) Leah.
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No happy ending to be expected
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU29 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
One of the cruelest stories I know. Dickens is so cruel we cannot imagine he is a man, what's more a humane human being.

A poor orphan, Pip, is raised by a poor blacksmith. A life of rough and tough luck. Take it or leave it, but there is no way out, except the radical one. And he dreams of being a gentleman one day. An aberration of course, morally wrong and bad taste.

He is selected and invited by Miss Havisham, a deranged rich woman who is mourning in total decay and sorrow after the failure of her wedding when the bridegroom did not come, twenty years before. Her objective is to provide a male companion and eventually husband to her adopted daughter, Estella.

But one night on the moor Pip is "accosted" by an prison escapee of some kind who asks for food and the boy of six or seven, maybe eight provides in the night, including a file for him to get rid of his manacles. He will turn up as his benefactor.

Luck, luck and luck. But then systematically Dickens shatters every single opportunity and hope on the side of the boy, Pip, who ends up in prison for unpaid debts, on the side of his benefactor, Abel, who will die in prison holding Pip's hand after his final arrest, on the side of Miss Havisham who will achieve none of her plans, on the side of Estella who will marry the rich and noble young man, will be brutalized and will end up alone in Miss Havisham's house, on the side of Biddy who will marry Joe the Blacksmith when Pip finally realizes she had been his closest ever friend, and even on the side of Estella who will refuse to requite Pip's love, though she will accept to make him her platonic companion in Miss Havisham's.redecorated house.

That cruelty is so extreme that we just wonder if Dickens then is not going through a phase of complete social rejection, rejection of the upper classes, rejection of the lower classes, rejection of justice, rejection of any discourse about the possible improvement of individuals and society. Absolute resignation and pessimistic submission to a totally inhumane world that only has some small pockets of satisfaction, but never for yourself, always for some rare others. He did not even salvage the exiled criminal who became Pip's benefactor, as Victor Hugo did in Les Misérables, and makes him die a solitary, nearly solitary death in prison with the sole company of the young man he tried and failed to help, and unaware of his daughter's fate, which does not seem to be particularly brilliant anyway, since she is Estella, daughter of a female assassin and a male exiled criminal condemned to absolute reclusion for life.

I just wonder if here Dickens does not reach Zola's pessimism who considered that anyone born in a criminal circle could only be that and drag everyone around him down into that criminal circle. No salvation for those who are badly born. The belief in an elected people turned into a savage and wild social Darwinism: some have been elected to be crushed and powdered by life as slowly as possible for them to regret ever being born but absolutely unable to shorten the ordeal.

Sad and sad and sad.

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