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James Cellan Jones
Serena Scott Thomas,
Wonderfully witty and observant series with an excellent turn from Bonneville
Mr Charles Pooter is a lower-middle-class man who sees himself higher up the social ladder by clinging to the mannerisms and habits of polite society. His diary tells the real story though as Pooter is constantly frustrated by a world that conspires to see his standing in the community, in the home and in his own head, damaged. Constantly subject to his own gaffs and self-importance, Pooter's recollections of his day vary from his enjoyment of his own jokes to the embarrassments the reality of his situation produce.
I had seen a documentary on the character of Pooter on BBC4 and enjoyed it enough to watch the 2007 version of the fictional diaries. Obviously it is all still set in the late 19th century but the topics of self-importance, social climbing and such will still easily produce humour for modern audiences. Those expecting to be rolling in the aisles will be disappointed because it is not funny in that sort of way but rather a wonderfully witty observational type. It is impressive that the material has stood up and it is credit to how accurately it lampoons the character that it is still relevant today. The success can be seen in the existence of the term "pooterism" to mean taking oneself too seriously.
The delivery of the material is excellent. Although it is limited to a few locations, it is never a man reading from his diary as Pooter gives us his recollections "live" as it were, whether he is at work, in his bedroom, at the breakfast table and so on. The sense of movement does really help the series feel like it is being told in the way of a normal narrative rather than a static diary looking backwards. This is helped by the rooms being really well laid out and designed; the trappings fit well into the period but also manage to have the feel of a place that is trying to have "nice things" but on a limited budget much like you can see with modern families in the same situation (albeit with different "things" of course).
Since it is a one-man-show, a lot does rest on the actor playing Pooter in this instance, Hugh Bonneville is quite excellent as he pitches Pooter just right. He produces great moments of being flustered while managing to be quite oblivious about his own part in the things that befall him, however this is "easy" and it is the harder stuff that impressed me. He never allows his Pooter to be a character totally to be mocked, which of course is realistic as Pooter would not do this to himself. In doing this he makes the character slightly tragic at times but also one we care about, so when he does have simply victories, we care they are as interesting as the gaffs, rather than them coming off as weaker material in the story. It is quite an impressive performance and all the more so for how effortless Bonneville makes it look.
Overall then a witty and enjoyable version of the famous satirical work. Over 100 years old now, but still relevant and amusing thanks in part to a very good delivery from BBC4 and a strong performance from Bonneville.
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