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Kristin Scott Thomas,
Oliver Twist is an orphan, who is soon kicked out of the orphanage and thrown into a terrible home. The bad treatment Oliver receives, forces him to run off to London. Here, he is soon picked up by the Artful Dodger and taken to Fagin. Fagin treats Oliver well, but is it the life Oliver really wants? Written by
'MORE' will be the last thing on your mind, if you can sit through this unnecessary, and under-whelming remake of the Dicken's classic. It beggars belief that Polanski, the same man responsible for the award-winning The Pianist, could go wrong with such a quality story to work with, but he has and spectacularly so. The first mistake was made in his young leading man. Forget pickpocketing, Islington lad Barney Clarke is guilty of one of the most ordinary performances in a title role ever seen on the big screen. With a few exceptions, his take on the supposedly lovable urchin Oliver involved little more than gratuitous overacting, an annoying sulking pout, sad puppy dog eyes and the personality and presence of a wooden puppet. When you're half way through the film and your hero has barely uttered a sentence, and you couldn't give a damn what happens to him, you know you're in trouble. This frustrating lack of character development is not confined to just Oliver. Polanski has managed to stifle the potential of every character in the cast Nancy, Sykes, the artful Dodger. None are given any priority in Polanksi's streamlined summary of Dicken's tale hence leaving them all as shallow, substance-less souls merely filling up a few minutes screen time here and there. So fleetingly are they presented, it's near impossible to become interested in their plights and actions, or to understand their motivations and what they (should) contribute to the story. Even Fagin, superbly played by Ben Kingsley, is sidelined as an ensemble character, despite providing the film's most animated personality, and is incredibly wasted in the role of the thieving mentor. David Lean's 1948 version and even Carol Reed's 1968 musical Oliver! are superior to this one, both delivering the emotional roller-coaster that Oliver's journey should be. Polanski's film moves from high to low at astonishing speed, but the climaxes are painfully dull and appear to be just going through the motions. Polanski is consistent though. The empty plot is wanton right up to the dreary, drawn out conclusion. On a positive note, the grim vision of 19th century London that he has created is glorious. Looks though aren't everything are they especially in this case. Please sir, no more.
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