Great Expectations

Jeremy Irvine as Pip and Holliday Grainger as Estella

To say that I had great expectations for Mike Newell’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel would not only be frightfully apt but also an understatement.

As it turns out, however, such expectations were naively optimistic as Newell’s adaptation of a beloved book falls incredibly short of greatness. To put it bluntly, at the film’s conclusion I felt like Pip when he discovered the identity of his mysterious benefactor. For those who know the story, it was most certainly not joy.

Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireFour Weddings and a Funeral) successfully presents an adequately modern, gothic and hauntingly stylised film, something in which previous adaptations have never quite entirely grasped. Unfortunately, some of the shots Newell uses are clichéd and take away from the drama he is attempting to provoke. Written by David Nicholls (One Day) the screenplay is left wanting and some pivotal scenes and characters from the novel (such as Orlick) have been omitted from the story entirely.

The stand out by far is Helena Bonham Carter as the infamously mad Miss Havisham. It seems as though she was born to play the role and her real-life eccentricities only strengthened the already  incredibly eccentric character. Robbie Coltrane is miscast as Mr Jaggers, a character who is supposed to epitomise the morally corrupt and vicious (or ‘wicious’ as Mr Hubble would say) nature of London society, but is dulled down so much that he becomes only barely unlikeable rather than violently detestable. The two leads, Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) try to evoke the sense of tragedy and heartache paramount to their characters but never truly reach success. As Magwitch, Ralph Fiennes brings some well-needed, believable violence and desperation to the movie along with Sally Hawkins as the brilliantly berserk Mrs Joe.

Overall I give Great Expectations 2.5 out of 5. A lot of scenes were not enough. Everything just skims the surface. It did not achieve the emotion, the desperation or even, and importantly, the brutality and violence – in both emotional and physical form – that Charles Dickens’ writing is laden with. For audiences unfamiliar with the book it will be enjoyable but for fans of the novel, don’t hold great expectations.


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