Great Expectations ★★★½

Did we really need another adaptation of Great Expectations? Especially given that there are still some Dickens stories that are largely overlooked ie Dombey and Son, Hard Times and the like - well, did we?

Probably not no.

But despite this reservation regarding its superfluous nature and the harsh, unfair criticisms the film received on release, to me there's no denying that Mike Newell's adaptation is a good and accurate representation of the classic tale - one which sits comfortably in (an admittedly far off) second place to David Lean's superior 1946 telling, perhaps because director Mike Newell, screenwriter David Nicholls and the accomplished cast avoid trying to imitate or compete with the grandeur of such a masterpiece. In its favour is the fact that Newell and Nicholls have used a good deal more of the book than Lean had done, giving us a faithful and dedicated version with the mercifully ambiguous ending, compared to the mildly annoying upbeat ending Lean chose to close his post-war adaptation with.

This is a handsome piece, beautifully designed - with its sprawling and bustling London and its broad endless skies of the Kent marshes being particular stand outs - with a pleasing palette and some strong performances; Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger (I still feel awkward seeing her now as an attractive and capable leading lady given I remember her best as an infant actress in Preston Front from the 90s) equip themselves well as Pip and Estella and I especially liked Robbie Coltrane's Jaggers, Ralph Fiennes' Magwitch, Ewen Bremner's Wemmick and the brief appearance of Sally Hawkins too, but it's actually Jason Flemyng's Joe who stood out for me, capturing the tragedy and decency inherent in the honest working man. Much was made of Helena Bonham Carter's casting for Miss Haversham....perhaps too much in fact. It should be ideal casting but, in having played a gallery of crazy eyed doll like harpies throughout her career, there's little of actual surprise or indeed interest here; it's just a capable and efficient performance, nothing more. I could have done without David Walliams in there though, tiresome individual that he is.

I also quite liked the Finches being depicted with a clear contemporary parallel to the obnoxious elitist Bullingdon Club that has given us our 'betters' this past decade.

Overall, if you've never seen an adaptation of GE before and choose this one, you can't go wrong and will be wondering what all the negativity was about, but I would advise watching Lean's version first and foremost.

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