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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.
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