Well-Planned Adaptation That Loses its Way a Little Towards the End
Thematically speaking, Mike Newell's GREAT EXPECTATIONS depicts a world in which money talks: where rich n'er-do-wells such as Bentley Drummle (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) manage to find the girls of their choice, while fundamentally good people such as Pip (Toby/ Jeremy Irvine) end up unlucky. To survive in this world, Pip has to shed his humanity; this is especially evident in his offhand treatment of Joe Gargery (Jason Flemyng), when the blacksmith comes to visit him in London. Likewise Estella (Helena Barlow/ Holliday Granger) is brought up in a world where any display of emotion or human feeling is considered weak; hence she believes it is her destiny to marry Bentley, even though the couple are not in love with one another. The quintessential representative of this rapacious world is Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane), who believes that everything - including human beings - are to be bought and sold for money. Hence Joe Gargery should be happy to accept twenty-five guineas in exchange for Pip. Unless you've got money, you'll not have any Great Expectations. Newell's film is also very good at depicting the relationships between Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) - although somewhat young for the role, Bonham Carter comes across as a fundamentally vindictive person, who enjoys playing with Estella and Pip's feelings in revenge for her own frustrations at being jilted on her wedding-day several years previously. As with most BBC- inspired costume dramas, the sense of place is beautifully evoked, even though Jim Clay's production designs; nineteenth-century London is a teeming, threatening world in which self-interest prevails. This is contrasted with the rural Kent coast where Joe and his sister (Sally Hawkins), a lonely world of sprawling landscapes and russet sunsets. Perhaps the only criticism that might be leveled at this adaptation is the fact that David Nicholls' screenplay runs out of steam somewhat: the plot-details are rather hurriedly wrapped up in the last half-hour at the expense of characterization and atmosphere. This is a shame, as it deflects out attention from the developing relationship between Pip and Abel Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes), which proves beyond doubt that compassion is far more significant than money to ensure human survival.
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