A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.
JIM'S REVIEW: (MILDLY RECOMMENDED) Well, I did like the costumes. And the production design, a mishmash of vibrant colors and patterns, was also a delight. (Kudos to Suzie Harman and Robert Worley's unlikely period wardrobe and Cristina Casali's stylish sets) But the film, The Personal History of David Copperfield, was all useless energy and pure nonsense. The film tries to impress with its quirkiness, lavish settings, and hyperactive performances. Figures whose names might seem familiar... Uriah Heep, Mr. Micawber, Betsey Trotwood, Mr. Dick...are strange hybrids of Charles Dicken's more famous characters from his novel. Here, they are thrown together to chronicle the story of the fictional David Copperfield's life. Like a Dicken's novel, characters intersect our hero's coming-of-age journey and add to the pomp although the circumstances are dubious. Unlike a Dicken's novel, in this odd film adaptation, they are shallow, silly, and overstay their welcome.
The film is unevenly directed by Armando Iannucci, who also wrote the screenplay with Simon Blackwell. His movie takes on a surreal quality which impresses in its visual splendor. (Many times while watching this film, I was reminded of Terry Gilliam's dud, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and we know how that one went.) But script-wise, it's a mess. The plot is contrived, a CliffNotes summary of the book which misses Dicken's clever prose. In this re-imagined film version, everyone plays their roles like live action cartoons without any restraint or comic timing. They become wind-up dolls dressed to the Victorian nines gone amok.
A good cast belabors the comedy. And Mr. Iannucci does assemble many of England's best actors for his movie such as Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie; only the latter two performers hit their marks most of the time with their outlandish interpretations. He waste their time and talents. As the title character, Dev Petel is completely engaging, but he and the integrated ensemble deserve better material. While the casting may be color-blind, the overall vision lacks focus too. The concept of creating Victorian England with a contemporary attitude is intriguing, but never quite gels.
Critics worldwide have raved about this film. And I waited nearly a year with high hopes, only to be disappointed by the end results. The film looks authentic and, production-wise, has many admirable traits, but it is all surface treatment and sleight-of-hand trickery. A earnest effort, I would agree, but the reality is that The Personal History of David Copperfield is epic, as in failure. It's a farce without any laughs that exhausts rather than thrills. Be careful what you wish for. (GRADE: C)
- May 16, 2021