GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2013)
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
NOVEMBER 24, 2013
Truth must be faced when dealing with an age-old tale like “Great Expectations,” you cannot change Charles Dickens. No matter how much you want to make a current adaptation or a period piece that expands on the 1860’s novel, if you were to tamper with the material, you would face a backlash that you’d never escape. But with that comes adaptations like Mike Newell’s version of the well-known tale, that comes off very much like something we’ve seen before and that does not expand the world much more than we know it already. But as viewers, we must understand where the heart is coming from and either accept what we are witnessing or not. “Great Expectations” is my favorite Dickens novel, with such a profound love story at its base, that you cannot help but feel what these characters are feeling, and with such a struggle in play, your emotions run the proverbial gambit.
What Mike Newell does realize he can control are the actors playing the well-traversed characters and hope to deliver performances from these selected cast members that revitalize the retreaded story and breathe new life into the pages. In my personal opinion, Newell achieves this successfully, bringing old and new into the picture superbly. Helena Bonham Carter, although typecast in the role of crazy Miss Havisham, delivers on par with her predecessors and neither takes away from nor necessarily adds anything to the role. Her known grace is apparent and we appreciate it. Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch also carries a well-known weight and amps up the performance level for this character’s portrayal as well. The real star of the show, however, is newcomer Holliday Grainger (“The Borgias”), as Estella, the iconic female character with a heart of ice, leading on poor Pip under the advisement of Miss Havisham.
Grainger is first of all visually stunning, especially in the extravagant dresses. Also, her deliveries are breathtaking, stealing your heart, yet dashing your hopes in all the best of ways. Of people that have played the role before her, none have quite captured the innocence that Grainger delivers, as she highlights the best portions of the film and truly keeps the viewer wanting more. Sadly, the same cannot be said for lead Jeremy Irvine, who never quite convinces as Pip and although eventually looks the part of a gentleman, remains uncomfortable in his skin as an actor. Along with some unexpected turns from Sally Hawkins, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Ewen Bremner, and Ollie Alexander, you’re able to overlook the unfortunate Pip casting and breath in this newly minted Dickens adaption. With a huge career ahead of her, Grainger has inspired me to follow her future work and with that makes “Great Expectations” one of my favorite period pieces this year, hopefully catching the eye of at least a few Academy members by the year’s end.
November 8, 2013
by Charles Dickens
(for some violence including disturbing images)
Helena Bonham Carter