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The last BBC Dickens' dramatisation broke "Bleak House" down into
half-hour soap-opera size elements for easy digestion and to sort of
tie-in with the original publication of the story in instalments, but
here the format reverted to the more traditional one-hour episodes
shown over three consecutive nights.You pays your money and while I
welcomed the 30 minute novelty was happy this time to sit for longer
and take in the master's story over a shorter period.
There have been so many previous adaptations that any new production has to offer something different, particularly in the scenes meant to grab the viewer's attention, like Pip's first meeting with Magwich and his first visit to Miss Havisham's mausoleum of a house. Both are done very well, particularly Ray Winstone's Magwich rising from the depths of the marshland to confront the terrified youngster while the set-dressing for Satis House certainly conveys the requisite decay and obsolescence of the dwelling-place of its jilted, cold-hearted owner.
It's really only necessary to film the story here to succeed, so great is the narrative Dickens provides, with his adeptness at furnishing a circular story-line, where nothing and no-one is missed out in the resolution as everyone gets more or less their just desserts. Nevertheless the story-telling is enhanced with excellent performances by its big names, Winstone and Gillian Anderson (who was also in "Bleak House"), although the production is less starry than "Bleak House", with only David Suchet as the very correct Jaggers perhaps claiming marquee status. That said the rest of the cast are mostly excellent, playing their well-known characters with aplomb, particularly the portrayals of Pip's shrewish sister, redoubtable Joe Gargery and loyal Herbert Pocket. However I sensed some weakness in the casting of the adult Pip and Estella, the former not imposing enough (in fact I preferred the acting of the young Pip), the latter not glacial or even beautiful enough, but they don't fatally wing the story.
The cinematography is superb, utilising washed-out, almost monochromatic shots to suggest the bleakness of the Dartford Moors and the Thames at the conclusion, while the depiction of the London Gentleman's Clubs as well as the afore-mentioned Satis House are superbly realised. There are many memorable scenes, with Gillian Anderson's inevitable self-immolation perhaps staying longest in the memory. My only other carp would be the occasional "modern" vulgarisation of aspects of the story, for example Drummle's taking Pip to a brothel, as if this wonderful story needs "sexing-up" in some way, which of course it doesn't.
Nevertheless with the promise of a new version of "Edwin Drood" to come, this was a very good and occasionally memorable version of a classic story.
Outstanding performance of Gillian Anderson.As an ethereal and ghostly Miss Havisham she is still creepy and manipulative.Who would say that "Scully" managed to be such a great actress! Although Douglas Booth is by far much more handsome as Pip would be;his performance is really good.Many critics complained on the actor being such a model!I suppose this is nonsense. Ray winstone is a stupendous Magwitch-all rage and revenge. And Harry Lloyd(who happens to be Dicken's great-great-great-grandson) plays Herbert Pocket exactly as one imagines him to be:the good and always amiable fellow. A great although not perfect(which one is...)adaptation.
I don't want to go into too much detail or else it will be thoroughly
spoiled. I anticipated this adaptation for months, being a great
Dickens fan, especially after the BBC's magnificent adaptation of Bleak
Similar problems always arise in these adaptations, both suffered from an absence of some key characters (although the latter had more episodes, and didn't suffer as a result) so here as a result the character development is not as it should have been.
I was impressed however by how much of the plot they fit into just 3 episodes over Christmas, and the pace was terrific. There were flaws in the script, where Bleak House took plenty of quotes from the novel, this didn't and therefore doesn't feel as fleshy or ultimately, Dickensian. Why change the best form?
I commend the cinematographers. One really felt the setting as it was written. Now onto the major successes and faults; casting.
Douglas Booth as the protagonist tried but came off as a bit too wooden. He also looked far too attractive (which of course is not an insult) but it didn't really work.
It is nice to see Claire Rushbrook again. Not seen her since Secrets & Lies. She was very convincing as Mrs Joe. Shaun Dooley was excellent as Joe Gargery, as were Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket, Jack Roth as Orlick, David Suchet as Jaggers and Ray Winstone definitely brought great life and humanity to the dreaded Magwitch.
My hat though must go off to Gillian Anderson, although many have thought her wrong for the part, let me explain why she was so good and right for the role.
Although Miss Havisham has been typically played as elderly, and her age is never specified really in the book, she was almost married as a teenager, and the time passing would place her in her forties, to early fifties. This makes Anderson, if anything, TOO YOUNG for the role, and the original "best" Martita Hunt, was only some years older. Of course she has been aged by her style of existence. Anderson did look more worn and ethereal as the series progressed. People also seemed to have a problem with her voice.
I see the childish voice as her being trapped in her 18 year old self, which presumably is the age she was jilted, so like the rest of the house, time stopped at that point, which is why she had a similar childish outburst when her relatives visited. I think Anderson's performance therefore is rather genius. One can really feel the angst, anger, regret she feels. I would have preferred a more dramatic apology to Pip in the end, but I suppose it was more subtle. Anderson again impresses in a Dickensian role, showing something completely different to her outstanding portrayal of Lady Dedlock.
It is her impressive work which for me gives this a 7 over 6. Oh and the intro sequence was quite beautiful. Slightly disappointing but overall an engaging adaptation, with a brave effort by Anderson which should really be recognised by BAFTA.
Dooley, Roth, Winstone and Lloyd should all create some buzz too.
Fine work of all of the cast relating a story that has been told so many times, that you cannot expect to feel it fresh and deeply touching, but they do. The journey of young Pip from simple kindhearted boy to knowing, kindhearted man is so capturing that, although knowing the story, I couldn't stop asking myself "what will happen at the end". The richness of the human soul have always captured me and in the this beautiful story you can see it all in one go - betrayal so bitter that makes a heart full of pride so angry and mean as to destroy several lives in a cold, premeditated scheme vexing deeply two young hearts, but mostly its own designer. You will see avarice and ambition of twisted little souls. But mostly you will see kindness - perfect scene in ep1-you will see friendship, honest and lasting, and you will see love, above passion and simplicity. I love Dickens and his way of unfolding his characters, so I was very pleased to see the series keeping close to his book, but in a fresh way suited for the understanding of 21st century audience. I very much recommend!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always liked Charles Dickens, both his writing and adaptations of
his work. There are several fantastic Dickens adaptations, especially
David Lean's Great Expectations(the 1999 version is also very
impressive) and Oliver Twist, David Copperfield(1999), Bleak House and
Little Dorrit. This Great Expectations I don't think is in the same
league of the above adaptations, but it is a very solid adaptation on
its own, not superb like RadioTimes said but not the piece of whatever
I've read from some people on the message board.
Great Expectations(2011) does I feel have its shortcomings. I do agree with some that say it was rather rushed, the details were there but while always interesting and never dull some of it does feel a bit too neat. Some scenes did jar, such as young Pip transforming suddenly into the older Pip, and the very end, which had a that's it feel to it. I also didn't like the decision to cut out Biddy and let Pip's sister live, it didn't add anything to the storytelling, and while harrowing in a sense Magwitch's recapture was rather drawn out.
Unfortunately I also have to agree that Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby as the adult Pip and Estella were miscast. In some ways, it is a plus that they are closer in age to the characters in the novel than John Mills and Valerie Hobson were in the Lean film but actually I found Lean's leads more believable. Booth is very handsome, maybe too much so, but very wooden. Likewise Kirby came across as too plain, especially compared to Booth which was a little disconcerting, and awkward.
Luckily their child counterparts were much better, young Estella was beautiful in looks and cold in manner, and Oscar Kennedy who is every bit as promising as he was in Toast is even better. The support cast are also wonderful, with honourable mentions going to Shaun Dooley, who came across as sympathetic and having a lot more steel, David Suchet's firm Jaggers, Jack Roth as Orlick, Ray Winstone whose acting in the first episode is quite terrifying and especially Gillian Anderson's haunting Miss Havisham.
Visually it looks wonderful, it has some beautiful sets and locations while still keeping the evocative atmosphere and not looking too clean. The costumes and photography are also very good, especially Miss Havisham's. The music is often eerie while not ever sounding over-bearing or obvious. The script while not always having Dickens' wit and not following the novel's prose(in fact the language such as Magwitch's description of the second man seems to have been "simplified") is still good and flows well.
On top of this, the story even with the rushed or jarring parts is compelling and makes you want to see the rest after the previous episode ends. The characterisation is mostly pleasing particularly at the start with Magwitch, though Pip's shrugging off of Joe seemed out of character. All in all, the series is mostly solid but maybe it was longer(4 or 5 episodes would've been better) and had two better adult leads it could have been even more than it turned out to be. 7/10 for the rest of the cast and the meticulous attention to detail. Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fairly unimpressive adaptation that simplifies the storyline a little
too much, has some very uneven performances and the whole thing plays
like a rather dodgy episode of 'Eastenders' complete with the odd swear
word and graphic image. Gillian Anderson's Miss Haversham is in a
different film from everyone else and there are some laugh out loud
moments like Estella thanking the horse and Ray Winstone throwing money
everywhere and saying 'This is yours' making it look like one of the
bets he advertises has just come up.
On the plus side it is well photographed and Shaun Dooley and David Suchet make their characters real.
Such a shame that the 200th anniversary of Dickens is marked by such inferior product.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm rather surprised by some of the negative reviews here. This was a
sumptuous production, extremely well cast and judiciously edited from
the book. It went out at peak viewing time over the holiday period and
drew in large numbers of viewers primarily because it targeted its
audience extremely well. Yes it cuts characters from the book, Biddy
for example, but with limited time and for the sake of streamlining the
story these are characters only missed if you knew of their existence
in the first place. For those new to Dickens and there will many, as
every generation arrives at classic literature from it's own direction,
it is a great introduction to the novel, which I encourage anyone to
pick up and read.
Standout performances are definitely Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson, both obviously enjoying their roles enormously and inhabiting their characters perfectly. Any misgivings people have to the casting of the 43 year old Anderson as Miss Havisham should be put to one side. She is often presented as far too old a character in previous versions, so to complain that seven or eight years have been knocked off seems kind of redundant. I enjoyed Douglas Booth as Pip, and he managed to make him initially unlikeable and naive, yet eventually more sympathetic, despite being so 'pretty'! Hat's off to Paul Ritter as Wemmick and Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket too, both perfect!
I actually just finished the book a month ago so it might have adversely affected my opinion since this adaptation is so very different than the book. Without going into details and risk spoilers, I just have to say the casting is subpar, except for Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham. The streamlining and changes in plots are questionable, the loss of some characters and changes to their actions and personality render them un-Dickensian. There should be enough time in 3 hours to tell a closer story to the original but the 3 hours felt like 6, I was bored and unmoved. I remember watching Bleak House, also with Gillian Anderson, and couldn't get enough, this one, I couldn't wait for it to end.
While I have read 'Great Expectations' probably about three times in my
life and am blown away every single time I do- I find that I have yet
to find a film that captures the importance and reverence that the book
generates. I understand that film is not suppose to replace the book-
but interpret for the screen, it becomes troublesome when certain
aspects are not done properly and therefor the story suffers- this
occurs in books, just as is does in film. The BBC adaptation is not a
disappointment, necessarily, but it lacks in certain areas that cannot
be over looked.
I start with what was good- First, the scenery and cinematography was spot on, from the home of childhood Pip, to the streets of London, it was close to what I experience when I read the book. Miss Havisham's home was perfect. It was a ghost of a home, just as she represents a ghost of a woman. There was just enough creepiness and sorrow with a dash of destruction. It may seem silly, but the scene- is almost a character in film- there is a deep impact or lack that can come from how something is represented visually.
Everything from Pip's transformation from blacksmith to gentlemen was well done. Douglas Booth's (Pip) physical appearance did not change, but using clothes, there is a reality to his progression that is necessary to the story and was handled well. I am constantly blown away with regard to BBC Masterpiece Theaters ability to take me to a different place and time so masterfully and 'Expectation' was no different.
Second, Jillian Andreson's Miss Havisham was great. I thought she captured how love is a true destroyer well. When she was in any scene she was the center- she hold the audience with her use of voice and appearance. It was amazing. Shaun Dooley was also very good as Pip's uncle and teacher, Joe Gargery. I thought that he played the 'father figure' well and when he confronted Pip about his behavior and new life-he demanded attention to not only Pip's choices, but as the book captures so well, the deeper themes of social class struggles, family versus money and honesty all took center stage. His performance was a joy to watch. The minor characters, such as Able Magwitch (Ray Winstone), Herbert Pocket (Harry Lloyd) and Jaggers (David Suchet) were also very good and fit nicely into their individual roles.
The bad was really not all that bad for all intensive purposes, but I felt that a few things just brought down the film adaption.
Pip. Oh, Pip. Played by Douglas Booth, who is perfectly wonderful to look at was flat. I never felt the passion that he carried for Estella, which is suppose to be the center of the tale. At its foundation 'Expectations' is a story about love and desire, and I do not think that it was captured here. Since it was clear early on in this adaptation that Estella and Pip encompassed the main theme, it was on the shoulders of Booth to carry the film and he struggled. Perhaps he was too young of a choice to play Pip, while he is close to the actual age of Pip in the book, but he seemed to struggle with how to emphasize his desire, his call for greatness. Booth's performance was not terrible, but it was not great and that was what it needed to be.
The same problem occurred with the female lead, Vanassa Kirby, who played Estella. I understand that she is mean to be a destroyer of men, but she came off as if she was a robot. Seriously, there was nothing to her and that is NOT how she is suppose to be. Ugh, I just do not even want to think about it.
Overall, this adaption was not bad, but it failed where it mattered and left me skeptical of how many more Dicken's classics will be interpreted. Keep the cinematography guys, the music, the costume, the adult actors- but find young actor who can act- not just look the part, but be the beloved character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Personally, this programme made my Christmas much better. I watched it with my family and it was just the kind of thing that was suitable for everyone. The actors were excellent, Gillian Anderson giving a very creepy yet sympathetic performance of Miss Havisham, and Harry Lloyd was pitched perfectly as the eccentric and loyal Herbert Pocket. Ray Winstone and Shaun Dooley were also heart breaking as the convict Magwitch and Pips kind brother-in-law Joe Gargery. But the person that stood out to me most was Douglas Booth as Pip. I'd only seen him before in Burberry magazines, and he is admittedly gorgeous and I'm now a fan :) but his acting ability far exceeded my expectations,he was very convincing and proved he is more than just a pretty- well, STUNNING face! The one thing that bothered me was Vanessa Kirby as Estella. It wasn't that she was bad, she just wasn't as good as everyone else. She's also supposed to be absolutely beautiful, but next to Douglas Booth she just looked plain and uninteresting, which isn't necessarily her fault. The scenery and setting were great, the young Pip and Estella were magical, and the whole thing was flawless, exceptional. There should have been more episodes because I felt very sad when it finished. Definitely recommended.
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