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This version of David Copperfield rivals the classic
1935 version, which starred Freddie Bartholomew
as David, and W. C. Fields as Mr. Micawber.
Dickens' great strength as an author was characterization, and Director Simon Curtis transforms this strength onto the screen. Even the most minor supporting characters are portrayed well.
In the major roles, Daniel Radcliffe as the young David is outstanding. (Of course, he has gone on to star as Harry Potter.)
Bob Hoskins is excellent as Micawber, Amanda Ryan portrays Agnes Wickfield beautifully, and Ian McNeice as Mr. Dick and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Uriah Heep are perfect.
For me, however, the true star of the movie is Dame Maggie Smith as Aunt Betsy Trotwood. Dame Maggie was born to play this role, and every frame in which she appears is a pleasure to watch.
This movie presents Dickens in the way Dickens was meant to be seen on the screen. Bravo!
I am not a great fan of the BBC classic novel serialisation, preferring to experience a drama in its entirety rather than chopped up into weekly doses. Generally a detrimental factor is that, with a greater running time than the average movie at his disposal, the TV adaptor tends to spin things out inordinately so that physical movements are often shown in their entirety, someone walking along a street or climbing a flight of stairs for instance. When it comes to Dickens adaptations the cinema generally wins hands down, those incomparable David Lean versions of "Great Expectations" and "Oliver Twist" for example and more recently Christine Edzard's masterly "Little Dorrit" which, although running for six hours, subtly utilised every minute by telling the tale from different perspectives. I never thought I would experience a TV adaptation to compare with these until three Christmases ago the BBC came up with a "David Copperfield" so enchanting that it remains for me the most lovable visual translation of a Dickens novel. Admittedly there is little of the wonderful montage and atmosphere of the Lean films or the profoundly observed social resonances of "Little Dorrit", but what makes the 1999 Copperfield such an overwhelming experience is the perfect casting. By some magic alchemy that I cannot begin to understand a cast of familiars was assembled that were somehow born to play their parts. The list extends far beyond the three I have chosen to mention but it is as if Pauline Quirke (Peggotty), Nicholas Lyndhurst (Uriah Heep) and Maggie Smith (Betsey Trotwood) became these characters in a way that noone else ever could. Fine actors that they are, it is difficult to imagine them achieving such perfection in other contexts.
David Copperfield is not an easy one to film because the story -- while
unfailingly interesting -- does have some of Dickens' most cloying
sentimentality and sugary sweetness. David himself is saintly, and this
makes him hard to play as an interesting character. In fact, playing
the young hero in period dramas can easily be something of a poisoned
chalice. (Other adaptations of recent years have come unstuck on this
point.) However, this works out fine here. A very small Daniel
Radcliffe is excellent as Harry P-- sorry, as young David, and I think
that Ciarán McMenamin is also good as the adult David. I don't agree
with those reviewers who call him smug. It's a shame that he looks
nothing, but nothing, like Daniel Radcliffe, and the hairstyles he is
given are really bad, especially the wig towards the end. Of course, he
is inevitably somewhat overshadowed by the galaxy of top-notch actors
who fill the other roles. Maggie Smith is particularly winsome as Betsy
I watched this with my eleven-year-old son and we both really enjoyed it. Recommended.
There is little point in outlining the story. Everyone in the world
except the very young and the gaga must know it, and there have been
numerous great movie adaptations of the Dickens classic. This 1999
production must be one of the very best.
Bob Hoskins as one of Dickens's most loved characters, Wilkins Micawber, was just about perfect. Likewise Dame Maggie Smith as Betsey Trotwood. And who could have portrayed Uriah Heep (with obvious relish) more cringingly 'umble than Nicholas Lyndhurst? (Years of practise as the under sibling in "Only Fools & Horses" paying off at last no doubt.) It was a lovely evil performance by him, and delightfully (I suspect deliberately) just a smidgen over the top.
Apart from the above, who was the most outstanding in the impressive cast? Answer...no-one. They all were. Every individual contribution was magnificent.
It is difficult to fault this two-part production of "David Copperfield" in any way. Acting, interpretation, sets, casting, music, cinematography, script, pace and direction. All were equally superb, and I think it will be a long time before it is even remotely bettered by any future one.
I have yet to read the book, so I don't know how faithful this film was to the original novel, but I really don't care. When you have such a fine cast and such a great production overall, who cares about being faithful? Bob Hoskins as the eccentric, debt-ridden Mr. Micawber, the inimitable Maggie Smith as Aunt Betsey Trotwood, and Ian McKellen as the sinister headmaster Creekle head the wonderful cast, which includes other great performances from Trevor Eve as evil stepfather Mr. Murdstone, Claire Holman as tortured Rosa Dartle, Pauline Quirke as the beloved nurse Peggoty, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, truly terrifying as the "'umble" clerk Uriah Heep. Not to be left out, Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran McMenamin are fine as young and old David Copperfield himself, respectively, though as Russell Baker noted in his "Masterpiece Theater" introduction, David is the least interesting character; the others are whom we remember. The production also looks great, from the seaside to the drawing rooms to the offices. Fine direction, script, everything. The BBC and Masterpiece Theater have done it again!
For me, 'David Copperfield' was quite the revelation as a film as it
was one of the few times I could tolerate Charles Dickens' adaptation
and it was a chance to see Dan Radcliffe, before his rather mediocre
performances as Harry Potter, prove he does have acting potential in
As the grown author David Copperfield reminisces on his life, the film focuses more on his childhood years and how he survived being an orphaned boy, with an abusive step-father, growing up in the bleakness of the Victorian era.
The cast is exemplary. Maggie Smith was just perfect as David's aunt, a woman who seems cold on the outside but does welcome the child into her home. Pauline Quirke stepped away from her usual comedic roles to play the maternal Pegotty, a lovable character who you truly felt cherished this little boy. Trevor Eve delivered a very chilling performance as the hideous stepfather Mr Murdstone who loathed David on sight with Zoe Wannamake equally as cruel as Murdstone's vile sister. Every actor did an excellent job of bringing their character to life and I don't think there has ever been such a well-cast drama. However, nine-year-old Daniel Radcliffe, who two years after this film would be cast to play Harry Potter, stole the show as the vulnerable but tenacious young David. It is easy to forget his bland wooden acting in the Harry Potter films as he throws himself into the role of winsome, wide-eyed David, wonderfully depicting the pains and joys of his character.
'David Copperfield' has to be one of the best adaptations of a classic novel yet. The excellent script and wonderful actors mesh together to really bring the story to life and it reminds you that sometimes the BBC does get it right. It's a pity our TV license money couldn't go to making more like this.
I can't say enough about this adaptation. I love Bob Hoskins as Mr. Micawber, Imelda Staunton as his wife, excellent. Maggie Smith and Ian McNiece are lovely. Those were the good guys. Trevor Eve was so repulsive as Mr. Murdstone and when he beat David at the beginning I wanted to take that stick and shove it down his throat. I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation and hope PBS and the BBC will continue to collaborate on other programs that are as intelligent and well made as this one is.
This adaptation by far beats all the David Copperfield
Daniel Radcliffe as David Copperfield is wonderful! He is so angelic as David.
The Acting by all the adults in this film was wonderful! Agnes, Peggoty, Aunt Betsy were all portrayed well! At least, they were all better than the 2000 Tv version of David Copperfield.
Uriah Heep is wonderful!!!!!Very creepy! Dora is perfect too!
watch this! I recommend it!
I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of Dickens's book, and yes I
preferred it over the 2000 version. Is it true to Dickens's work? It is
reasonably, though the book isn't particularly easy to adapt at all,
then again what Dickens book is? Even if there are any flaws such as it
being a tad too long, it is completely compensated by the production
values, music and the quality of the acting. The production values are
superb, like in Bleak House and Little Dorritt, the sets are
realistic-looking, the scenery breathtaking and the costumes sumptuous.
The direction is also good, and sticks to the time period and the
situations likely to happen during that period. The script is above
decent, and does a more than acceptable job in adapting the book, and
the music is lovely.
And of course the acting is exceptional. I was compelled to write a separate paragraph as there are so many performances I wish to acknowledge. Daniel Radcliffe is simply adorable as young David, and acts being vulnerable very convincingly. I don't know about anybody else but I think this is the best I've seen Daniel act. Maggie Smith was simply born for the role of Aunt Betsy Trotwood, and Trevor Eve is a chilling and vile Mr Murdstone. I also loved Bob Hoskins as the debt ridden but kindly Micawber, Zoe Wannamaker as Jane Murdstone, Pauline Quirke as maternal Pegotty and Amanda Ryan as the alluring Agnes Wickfield. Also worth of mention are Allun Armstrong as Daniel Pegotty, Ian McKellen as the sinister Creakle(a character I found disappointingly forgettable in the 2000 version) and especially Nicolas Lyndhurst as the snake-like and odious Uriah Heep.
Overall, I loved this 1999 adaptation for especially the acting. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This story is such a classic that anyone must know it without having
ever read it, just like me. Peggotty has been an old friend of mine
since junior high school but never had I opened the book, though I have
the complete works of Charles Dickens in my library, and never had I
seen any screen adaptation of it before tonight. So I just discovered
this fine story in my old age, and in a way I regret it.
Of course there are orphans and in this case even, David Copperfield is orphaned before his birth. Of course there are step parents who are absolutely obnoxious and brutal. Of course there is a school for boys who are treated like dogs and beaten like trash. Of course there are strict and painful social situations that lead to prison, begging, being robbed and whatever you can imagine, especially when you are a nice young boy, too pure to be true and too naïve to be serious.
But even the factory in which David Copperfield is forced to work at the early age of ten or eleven looks like paradise when compared with the stepfather and his dear sister, two goal-keepers and nothing else. And that's the miracle of Dickens. He transforms an absolutely bleak situation into a rose garden, or if you prefer the crazy crushing life of a boy into a school for gentility and success.
That's the mystery and miracle Dickens cultivates in all his books. No matter how horrible life may be, and be sure he remained discreet about the worst details, he turns it into a happy ending and a success story. And that's how a forlorn and abandoned orphan will be able to cut a position for himself under the sun and in society.
People could say Dickens was a blind optimist, but he was not blind at all and knew about the sinister life we live in. We could say he is a hypocrite writing stories about the dregs of society to sell them to and make money from the rich and wealthy minority that could read and afford the serials or books, and what's more to cover up with happy endings the terrible fate of most working people and children in this Victorian society. And we would be wrong.
Dickens' books are a testimony of what Victorian society was and a great lesson given to those who had and still have the power and the money necessary to change things that change cannot be stopped because there will always be a few who will be strong enough or lucky enough to climb up to a position from which they may influence the world. In fact he thinks he is one of these and he is telling us book after book the same story of the enterprising young man who will change the world with his words and mind.
It is optimistic for sure but heart warming even more, and this BBC adaptation is just perfect as for that brittle equilibrium between social criticism and human advancement.
Dr Jacques COULAREDEAU
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