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Great Expectations is one of my favorite novels and I have seen every screen adaptation to date. None has made more impact on me than the David Lean version. I was so looking forward to Mike Newell's version which seemed to have the perfect casting. I was though quite disappointed. Granted that it is very difficult to tell this story in a couple of hours of screen time, but that is no excuse for making a film which rushes through the events in the book without providing sufficient depth of the characters and motivation for their actions for the audience to feel empathy with them. Such a story deserves a longer screen time or alternatively cut out some of the secondary characters and provide more focus on the main characters. The film has a very "Harry Pottery" look which is no surprise since Newell made one of the films in that series. Performances are generally fine, with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter predictably stealing the main honors.
This adaptation of Great Expectations did enchant me at some points.
There was a definite highlight in the relationship between Magwitch
(played by Fiennes)and Pip (Irvine). The issue, however, comes with a
certain lack of focus in the film: it could have centered on the
gripping dynamic of those two, but instead wandered between hopeless
Estella-loving Pip and confused gentleman-aspiring Pip, not choosing to
dwell on the excellent depictions of rough father figure Magwitch and
reluctant son Pip. The best moments involved them - from the disbelief
when Pip realizes who Magwitch is to the suspense and melancholy of
their later scenes.
In short, the acting was spot-on, but the story wavered. Director Newell walked a very fine line between kitschy and touching in depictions of Havisham, Estella and Pip's relationship. With Estella and Pip's main confrontation, for example, I found myself drawn in and absorbed by their emotions - but the over-the-top display of melodrama, with Estella over-symbolically torn between Havisham and Pip, quickly cut through the tension and made it veer toward the more absurd. Bonham Carter as Havisham was a good choice, but it seemed almost too obvious: she plays the part as if straight from Tim Burton's CORPSE BRIDE, a film she herself has compared her character to.
It was worth it to watch the excellent acting by Irvine and Fiennes. There were laughs and tension but it was all quite formulaic; and the meandering film focus, finally leading to a spotlight on Estella/Pip but without a satisfying kick in the end, did not add up to a particularly memorable film. 6/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Great expectations were what we had before watching the film because of the amazing trailer. It makes it look intriguing, full of movement and passion. However, we couldn't have been more wrong. Two hours of my life wasted on a film with a great cast, and actors I love to see perform, but so slowly paced and boring, I seriously had to make the effort to stay awake. It is not the actors, nor the special effects or the film in itself. It's just like reading the book. It's the script. Big films like Romeo + Juliet keep the original scrip or try to change it as little as possible with brilliant results. But in this case they haven't managed to do a good job. It's tedious, even too cloying for a true lover of romance. Definitely a film I wouldn't recommend anybody to watch at the theater. It's more like the one you should rent if you can't sleep. It surely will help.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of Dickens most beloved novels, but it always seems to
flail about in the unmoving to just straight up disappointing area when
adapted to the screen, and this lavish, expensive, new telling of it
seems to sadly fall into the same category.
The story is supposed to be about the life and struggles of Phillip Pirrip (or Pip) as he wrestles with who he is, who he was born to be and who he desperately wants to be. And perhaps it is this overly dramatic and meticulous plot of the novel that ultimately dooms any and all film versions of it. This movie does try to show you his character struggles, but it bounces between that plot line and the should-be romance between the determined Pip and the lost Estella. You see the two interact briefly between the other storyline and you get the feeling that the writers wanted their romance to be the main attraction of the film but were overruled.
The acting is as inconsistent as the story it is trying to tell. Jeremey Irvine (Pip) falters and leaves you underwhelmed with his portrayal of the somewhat selfish character. He spectacularly looks the part but, try as he might, just cannot compete with the far more superior actors he was cast alongside of. Where his costars go for subtlety he goes for blatant and the clashing portrayals leave you worn out and tired. Holliday Grainger was perhaps the only person in Hollywood who could have given just the right amount of emotion to the cold and calculating character that is Estella. Her personification of a character so loathed and adored as she was radiant. With her at the reigns of the character you could understand why Pip would forgo friendship and nature for wealth. Their chemistry was spotty at best; sometimes you believed their desire for one another, but other times it felt forced and it didn't seem like they wanted each other at all. Boham Carter was a good Havisham but her flair for the dramatic made it nearly impossible for you to sympathize with the cruel and frantic woman.
Even to those of you who know nothing about the book plot line and are just into viewing period piece films, this movie will still lag. The pacing was tedious at best and the character development of Pip took way too long without really divulging anything of remote interest. The movie, on top of a crippled script and wayward overwrought acting looked as if it was bootlegged. The director is a fan of grainy, dirty looking cameras apparently. The whole time I was viewing it I thought that I had purchased an illegal copy from some homeless gentleman. This movie disheartened me greatly, and I can only say that it will disappoint you too. 5.5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes you sit through a film you have seen before and enjoy it,
even though you know the plot. This time I sat through a film I hadn't
seen before and I didn't get that much out of it.
It may be partly because the BBC had done an excellent adaption only one year ago. The serpentine plotting of Dickens was also better suited to the longer format of three episodes rather than a two-hour film. There are limits to how much plot you can cram in and the film probably exceeded them.
In both versions the acting was good, but I query the casting in the new film. I would say I preferred Ray Winstone as a true Cockney Magwitch and David Suchet as a creepier Jaggers. Estella is also supposed to be someone who captivates Pip. Even though Holliday Grainger acted well, I couldn't see her as a woman who could drive someone to distraction with her stunning beauty.
The sets were obviously intended to outdo any previous versions. Satis House was straight out of Gormenghast while London looked more mediaeval than it probably was in 1860.
If it hadn't been done so soon before, it would probably be rated as a better film.
Far from a terrible film but rather disappointing too, seeing as this
did have a lot going for it. Plus the trailer actually looked really
good. There are certainly some good things, even when a film or series
doesn't quite work there are not many times where there is nothing
redeeming about it. This Great Expectations does have a fair few merits
and the best of these merits actually come off quite well. The costumes
and sets are both beautiful and evocative, and the reuniting of Pip and
Estella has some very clever lighting, there is great atmosphere and
poetry in this moment. The music is haunting, is fitting for the tone
of the film and doesn't overbear things too much. The opening scene is
very atmospherically effective also, though the adaptation that did
this scene best and quite possibly without equal is David Lean's.
And while the acting is inconsistent, there are some very good performances, and actually most of the performances fall into the very good category. The star was Ralph Fiennes, his Magwitch was both creepy and tragic, in the earlier scenes Fiennes is chilling but later on he is very likable and you feel pity for the character. Helena Bonham Carter really gives her all to Miss Havisham, wonderfully bitter and dramatic, if physically a little too on the voluptuous side for a character that is described the complete opposite in the book. Jason Flemying is an excellent and dignified Joe, Robbie Coltrane is firm and somewhat larger than life as Jaggers and Olly Alexander's Herbert Pocket is eccentric and quaint as well as earnest and upbeat, a very engaging performance of a potentially dull character.
Jeremy Irvine looks the part for Pip but his acting style came across as too overwrought and too innocent, while Holly Grainger looks radiant but not cold enough for Estella. They are marginally better than the miscast leads in the respectable but flawed 2011 BBC adaptation, but only just. David Walliams mugs his way through the role of Uncle Pumblechook and painfully so, it may work for Little Britain but it is completely wrong here. Toby Irvine and Helena Barlow are very competent and work well together, if lacking that extra spark to make them truly memorable, Barlow also could have a little more spiteful.
Aside from these problematic casting choices there are other reasons why this adaptation of Great Expectations fell short. It is a very difficult story to adapt, Dickens generally is difficult to adapt, but the story is not very engaging here, though there are some bright spots like the opening scene. The pacing can get tedious while some of the details are rushed through and under-explained, the Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham scenes veer towards the absurd rather than the tense and the scenes between Irvine and Holliday don't have that much pulse. The ending is also very badly bungled.
The script can get rather trite and wordy with some awkward tonal shifts. And while the period detail is great and there are moments where the lighting is clever, the way the film looks is rather too grim, too much of the Harry Potter and Tim-Burton-at-his-most-Gothic vibe. Mike Newell does deserve some credit for bringing out the story's dark approach but too often it is too emphasised so the film generally lacks life, and consequently the dark obsession that is at the heart of this great story comes across as rather flat. Overall, a long way from bad but not as great as it could have been, personally this was a mixed feelings sort of reaction towards the film. 5/10 Bethany Cox
The past few years have seen an increase in creative adaptations of
classic novels. Mike Newell's Great Expectations may seem uninspired
compared to challenging and inventive films like Anna Karenina or
Wuthering Heights, down to the easy casting of Helena Bonham Carter as
a crazy old woman and a score that sometimes sounds lifted piece by
piece from Pride & Prejudice. Newell surprises, though, and has
imagined a solid and remarkably captivating and evocative counterpart.
For those who never took freshman year English, Great Expectations is the story of a common orphan, Pip (Toby and Jeremy Irvine), who lives with his horrid shrew of a sister (Sally Hawkins)and kind-hearted father figure husband (an excellent Jason Flemyng). One day, Pip runs into an escaped convict (Ralph Fiennes) who terrifies him into stealing food and a file; the convict takes a liking to him before he is recaptured and taken away.
Pip is later selected by neighborhood freak Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter, stretching herself) to play with her adopted daughter Estella (Helena Barlow and Holliday Grainger). He believes Miss Havisham wants to mold him into a gentleman so he can marry and provide for Estella, until she helps him become a blacksmith and bids him goodbye. Years later, Pip falls into a large fortune from an anonymous benefactor, and after making himself presentable, he returns to Estella.
I've been careful to limit my excitement since Newell's involvement was announced. 20 years ago he would have been the perfect choice, but after he attempted to make an action scene out of every dramatic beat in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and bastardized the poetic beauty of Love in the Time of Cholera, I'd lost faith. Great Expectations, though, is a return to form for a once-upon-a-time master of the genre. While it occasionally suffers from genre confusion (Bonham Carter's scenes play out more comedically than they perhaps should have), his habit of making things more action-y than they really are actually enhances the material here - the fire and boat scene are a thousand times more adrenaline- packed than in the novel - and the enthralling pacing, expertly crafted visuals, and lively dialogue and performances add up to a very fine film.
The visual aspects deserve special mention for how much they bring to the movie. It feels as if the cinematography and art direction are working to illustrate and expand on the writing, rather than simply constructing a picturesque background (which Newell was guilty of in Cholera). Scenes at Pip's home look heavenly, with golden lightning and wide shots making his world look endless and welcoming. By contrast, when he becomes a gentleman, close-ups, dreary costumes and dark, windowless rooms contribute to a more claustrophobic and icy atmosphere. The cleverness of the lighting is particularly pronounced when Pip and Estella reunite after years: we see a close-up of Irvine, with only darkness behind him, then one of Grainger in a hallway lit by brassy lanterns, positioned almost as if they are lighting a path for him to follow. The last time we see Estella, as a changed woman open to Pip's affections, is the first time we see her in a wide open space. These visual cues are simple and unintrusive, but enhance subtext and recreate the poetry of Dickens' novel.
Irvine is a capable and likable enough lead, but the film belongs to the supporting cast. Bonham Carter's interpretation of Miss Havisham is intriguing, if not perfectly executed. It recalls her performance in Big Fish, where she toes the line between outlandish and pathetic. Grainger's Estella is beautifully acted - her delivery of "I am what you made me" is chilling. Jessie Cave and particularly Jason Flemyng give adorably heartfelt and rustic performances, while Olly Alexander is hilarious and brings heaps of life to a normally dull character. The true star, though, is Ralph Fiennes. It's a shame this didn't get an Oscar push, because with a strong narrative and a proper campaign, he could have been a serious threat. Fiennes completely sinks into his character; there isn't a trace of his past performances as well-groomed, eloquent gentleman. He's frightening and savage, but oddly sympathetic, and in his more intimate scenes he absolutely devastates. There are memories of an entire life behind his eyes. Without a doubt this is one of his best performances and sadly it seems it will go unrecognized.
It's not quite a perfect film - it's very short and so some characters and themes get lost in the shuffle, and certain tonal shifts feel jarring and inappropriate - but it's a damn good one. Newell seems to have finally found a functional dynamic for a period piece, a happy balance between contemplative and spirited. Due as well to his phenomenal cast and production team, he's done a wonderful job of bringing a difficult and gloomy novel to life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As someone who loves Charles Dickens and the work of director Mike
Newell, I have been eagerly anticipating this film since its release in
England last fall. I was fortunate enough to attend its Arizona
premiere at the Scottsdale International Film Festival on October 7th,
and I have to say that all my anticipation was well justified. It is
more than just a good film or a faithful adaptation of one of the 19th
century's greatest novels; it is a masterpiece.
I can't understand why so many reviews, both critics and the public alike, are so negative. It is a good watch whether you've read the novel or not. Literary purists will enjoy it for the fact that it stays so close to the book, and casual film buffs will appreciate that the twisting Dickensian plot is made comprehensible enough so that they can follow along as well. Having watched other adaptations including the much-lauded 1946 Lean film version, which was, incidentally, the last time this story made it to the silver screen, others pale in comparison. There is not a thing about it that I would change or want any different. It is probably the best film I've seen all year.
Hats off to screenwriter David Nicholls, who manages to successfully translate a 450+ page novel into the perfect 2-hour film. He kept it to just the right length--long enough to avoid feeling butchered, but short enough so that things weren't dragged out longer than necessary. The pacing was good, and I never felt like something had been "cut out", a rare feeling in a production like this. The preservation of Dickens' own dialog and his occasional touches of humor lends an authenticity rarely felt in adaptations of his work (ref. BBC's disastrous 3-hour miniseries).
The visual look is lush of the film is lush and gorgeous, with evocative landscapes of the Kentish coast and Gothic interiors looking equally appropriate.
The entire cast is ideally suited to their respective parts, and give real, moving performances. Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger as the older Pip and Estella gave better performances than I expected from the trailer, and look out for Toby Irvine, Jeremy's real-life younger brother, as Young Pip--he's a scene-stealer! Helena Bonham Carter simply is Miss Havisham, and plays her as she should be played, slightly dotty, but with a reason for her madness. Robbie Coltrane is excellent as the less-than-trustworthy Jaggers, and Jason Flemyng as Joe is literally an exact replica of the character as I imagined while reading the novel. The real standout, though, is Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch. His beautiful eyes carry the character to perfection, and along with a believable but intelligible North Country accent, it's hard to imagine anyone but him in the role.
To sum up, Mike Newell's "Great Expectations" is unquestionably one of the best Dickens adaptations ever made, certainly the best of feature-length, and I recommend it to anyone.
Clocking in over 2 hours, the movie does feel like it's too long. And
since it is a period piece, you get the old "repression" and not being
able to get what you want thing. But the movie does have a spin of
course and that spin is Ralph Fiennes character. Of course there have
been quite a few versions of the book (that I haven't read I'll admit
right here), I can't compare it to them (or the book obviously).
Fiennes lends the movie some well needed gravitas and while it might have been a different movie with other actors in it (see "Did you know section" here on IMDb), it still is worth watching for anyone who likes his period pieces a lot. Drama and thrill combined with a little twist here and there always works. Jason Flemyng and other characters get less time than you wish they had and the movie ends like you'd expect it to ... though it is rather difficult to feel exactly what our protagonist is going through all the time, it still works most of the time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Great Expectations has been told on small and big screens since the
creation of cinema and this version makes the story dark and twisted
mostly with the design and characters.
Charlies Dickens wrote the novel Great Expectations in 1861 and every since if has become a fan favourite for the way it plays these characters as the conflict rises by actions some take. Pip (Jeremy Irvine) when he was young came in contact with the heartbroken Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) to play with her adopted cold blooded daughter Estella (Holliday Grainger) who he falls in love with. When the two grow up Pip is taken from being a blacksmith by an unknown benefactor he believes is Havisham but it later is revealed to be escaped prisoner Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes) whom Pip helped when he was a young child.
Even though this particular Dickens story has been almost told to death I will always look out to see if the version is something I like because the complicated story always interests me. Mike Newell the director of the film has worked with many of these actors in the Harry Potter series and that style of film is present in his direction of this tale. The choice of flashback camera presentation had no effect on me because it just looked awful even though I think Newell thought it was a way to look into the characters minds. The extraordinary sets fit into this world including the dead and once happy house of Miss Havisham that she moves around in complete sadness. Then to London we see a more cleaned setting in doors while the hustle and bustle is outside around these richer people.
Jeremy Irvine plays Pip for most of the film and just like his performance in War Horse last year you can see his acting suffers from his masculinity for this role. He comes off far better this time round but still is acting does not impress me especially when he try's to hold his own against these thespians who with one look can steal a moment from him. Holliday Granger plays the grown up Estella and this version compared to the younger has grown into her cold and unsympathetic personality as she was raised to get revenge on men. Granger is great in her limited time and added more likability to this highly unlikeable women. Helena Bonham Carter plays Miss Havisham and from our first sight of her in the mirror till her terrible death by burning in her wedding dress. Carter takes her known style of going for the crazy and takes parts of this adding it to a women who usually can be unlikeable just before her departure because of how she effects the plot. Ralph Fiennes plays the prisoner Maywitch and he adds his creepy side to this man who has helped Pip mostly being the most tragic character because we feel for the man but also know at times he cannot be trusted.
The film overall struggles from comparison from other adaptations. The performances are great especially provided by the most unlikeable characters of Estella and Miss Havisham. The period detail is great and the minor details in Havisham's life add to the depth of this heartbroken cruel women.
MOVIE GRADE: B- (MVP: Holliday Granger)
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