Set in Victorian London, Gwendolen Harleth is drawn to Daniel Deronda, a selfless and intelligent gentleman of unknown parentage, but her own desperate need for financial security may destroy her chance at happiness.
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Jonny Lee Miller
It is across the roulette table that Gwendolen Harleth first locks eyes with the enigmatic Daniel Deronda. Gwendolen is beautiful, vivacious, and a gambler, but desperate for financial security; something that possessive Henleigh Grandcourt would be able to provide for her. Daniel is the adopted son of an aristocratic, but doubtful of his own identity. He pours his energy into selflessly helping his friends, including poor Jewish singer Mirah Lapidoth. As Gwendolen's situation becomes dire, and Daniel seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding his own birth, their lives become intertwined... Written by
This was one of the more exquisite costume drama adaptations I have seen, with attention to detail absolutely striking in an archery scene that sets the bar for the entire series. Like the novel, it is polarizing in its two stories in one - people seem to either love/hate Daniel's plight or love/hate Gwendolyn's.
Personally, I found Gwendolyn equally annoying in both novel and film. Hugh Darcy, as the eponymous hero, was pretty to look at and delivers a fine, if unremarkable, performance.
But it is Hugh Bonneville as the dastardly Henleigh Grandcourt who took my breath away! He is flawlessly reprehensible, stealing every scene he was in and when he wasn't in a scene, I couldn't wait to see him again! It was terrific seeing Hugh Bonneville in such a role, as he's usually cast in the "very nice guy" roles (Bridget Jones Diary, Iris, Tipping the Velvet, etc). Although he's fine in such roles, as Grandcourt he made my skin crawl with his morally bankrupt, wealthy and pugnacious swagger. LOVED him!
What this series could have used more of was Jodhi May and Greta Scacchi. In difficult supporting roles, both women shine as, respectively, a searching, haunted Jewess and a scorned, bitter mistress. Barbara Hershey makes an appearance late in the series in a pivotal plot device that I won't reveal lest some unsuspecting viewer be bitter with me, and in a limited role gives a performance that reminds us why she became famous in the first place (and at least for this viewer, made me forgive her 'Beaches').
Overall, this adaptation is very enjoyable and recommended viewing for fans of the genre.
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