Friday, 6 September 2013

Great Expectations (2011)

Very recently we've had not one but two adaptations of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and the BBC have been behind both of them. They produced and aired a miniseries in 2011 and also co-produced a film which came out in 2012. Isn't that weird?! Great Expectations is already one of Dickens' most adapted works. It isn't really crying out for a new and modern adaptation like some of Dickens' other works are, with A Tale of Two Cities being a great example. Oh, won't someone please adapt A Tale of Two Cities?! It's got action, an epic scale, romance and a tragic hero! It's one of Dickens' shorter novels and would translate to film so well! Come on people! Anyway, both of these recent adaptations of Great Expectations are quite star-studded and feature many well-known actors. This 2011 miniseries features Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, Ray Winstone as Magwitch, Mark Addy as Mr Pumblechook, David Suchet as Mr Jaggers and Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket. Pip and Estella are played by the up-and-coming actors Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby.

Great Expectations isn't actually one of my favourite Dickens stories so I guess it's not surprising that I wasn't overwhelmingly in love with either of these recent adaptations. However, I think the 2012 version is by far the better of the two. The 2012 film uses far more of Dicken's original dialogue than this miniseries does. Also, despite it being only two hours long, the film captures many of the smaller details of the book like Miss Havisham only having one shoe and Herbert Pocket calling Pip "Handel". And the film features Pip's childhood friend Biddy and Mr Wemmick's elderly father! Both of these characters are inexplicably absent in this version! Come on! If a two-hour film can find the time to include these characters then there's no excuse for a three-hour miniseries not being able to manage it!

Another downside to this 2011 miniseries is its Estella. The Estella of the book is a stunningly beautiful young woman. She's drop-dead gorgeous and Pip is dazzled by her. Now I do realise that this might sound quite harsh and that beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder and all that... but Vanessa Kirby just isn't beautiful enough to play Estella in my opinion. Kirby isn't unattractive but she's just not attractive enough to play this particular character. It really doesn't help matters that Douglas Booth's Pip is so incredibly pretty in this version either! Douglas Booth is such a ridiculously good-looking man that Kirby's Estella looks downright plain by comparison! Pip really shouldn't be more attractive than Estella! I mean, I struggle to understand just why exactly Pip is so obsessed with Estella in the book even though she is beautiful - but whenever I saw Pip and Estella's scenes together in this version I'd be thinking "Pip! Why are you in love with this woman?! She doesn't seem that into you, you're gorgeous, and you can do better!" Also, I have to say that neither Kirby or Booth really impressed me with their acting. I didn't sense very much chemistry between them and I found both of their performances bland. The child actors who played Young Pip and Young Estella were both excellent though (Oscar Kennedy and Izzy Meikle-Small).

Despite these flaws I would still say that this version is worth a watch though. This is because of the acting. Even though I feel that the 2012 film has an all-round better cast, there are still some fantastic performances in the 2011 version. I definitely prefer the actors who play Miss Havisham, Mr Jaggers and Herbert Pocket in this miniseries over the actors who play these characters in the 2012 film. I'll start with Gillian Anderson's Miss Havisham. Wow. I've been hearing rave reviews about her performance in the BBC's Bleak House for years so I was really looking forward to seeing her in this. She did not disappoint! Gillian Anderson gives a truly spectacular performance in this miniseries and acts the heck out of the role. Even Helena Bonham-Carter (who I thought would make an amazing Miss Havisham) just can't match up to Anderson's portrayal. Anderson's Miss Havisham is clearly a madwoman yet she's fully aware of what she's doing and is very malicious and cruel at times (just watch her facial expressions when she tells Young Pip that she's paying for him to be a blacksmith). She's also extremely creepy. But Anderson really sells Miss Havisham's inner pain and anguish as well. Her Miss Havisham is just so broken and vulnerable that you really can't hate her. Anderson gives a brilliantly multi-layered performance and I absolutely loved her in the role. I also really loved her voice. Anderson uses a very eerie, child-like voice in this version and it really added to Miss Havisham's creepiness. And the fact that Miss Havisham has a scab on her hand that she's constantly picking at was a great metaphor for how she refuses to let her own emotional wounds heal. Finally, the make-up that they used on Anderson in this miniseries was fabulous. She looks so pale and ghost-like in this that you can definitely believe that this woman hasn't seen the sun in decades. Anderson gave my favourite performance in this miniseries but I also really loved David Suchet and Harry Lloyd. Suchet makes for a very sinister and quietly menacing Mr Jaggers. You would not want to cross him! And finally Harry Lloyd is just so adorable as Herbert Pocket. Apart from his very minor role in the most recent Jane Eyre adaptation I'd only seen Lloyd in his villainous roles on Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. But Lloyd is so charming, optimistic and loveable in Great Expectations and the scene where Herbert teaches Pip to dance is really cute. And it's so awesome that Lloyd is actually related to Dickens! Yes, Harry Lloyd is a direct descendant of Charles Dickens on his mother's side. He's Charles Dickens' great-great-great grandson.

Aside from these performances I also really enjoyed the opening credits of this version and the cinematography of it. The opening scenes are very dark and dreary-looking but, as it carries on, the miniseries becomes much brighter and more colourful. I also much preferred the house that was used for Satis Hall in this miniseries over the Satis Hall that was used in the 2012 film. From what I've heard, this adaptation isn't on a par with the BBC's Bleak House and Little Dorrit adaptations and overall I do prefer the 2012 film adaptation over this miniseries. Having said that, there is good and bad in both of these recent adaptations of Great Expectations and if I could I'd merge them together. I'd keep the Miss Havisham, the Herbert Pocket and the Mr Jaggers of this version - and possibly its longer running time - and everything else from the 2012 film.

Rating: 3/5
Film Certificate Rating: 12


Sarah said...

Hello! I've been a blog-lurker for a few weeks now, and thought I'd better leave a comment and let you know how much I'm enjoying reading your blog. : )
I LOVE Dickens, but even so, 'Great Expectations' isn't one of my favourites, and though I really enjoyed G. Anderson's performance in this version, it don't really think that they managed to get the full story to make it a good adaption. And this Estella just annoyed me; she was so miscast!
I was reading your POTO 25th anniversary review the other day (that has to be THE version!), and was really pleased that we share some of the same strange views about it. Nice to find another person who likes literature and musicals as much as I do. : )

Indigo Montoya said...

Hi Sarah! Aw, you've actually made me really happy! Thank you so much! As a blogger yourself I'm sure you realise just how great it feels when you know that people are enjoying your blog : ) Hee hee, I'm a bit of a blog lurker myself. There are lots of blogs that I follow that I just haven't made any comments for yet.

It's good to know that GE isn't one of your favourite Dickens novels yet you're still a huge fan. I mean, I LIKED the book but Dickens has written better I think. A lot better. What are your favourites? I decided very recently that I haven't read nearly as much of Dickens as I should so now I want to read at least 1-2 of his books a year. This year I've read GE and I think I'm going to re-read A Tale of Two Cities (I love that one!). Next year I plan on reading Bleak House and Oliver Twist. After that I've no idea.

Yes the POTO 25th anniversary concert is amazing! I'm just so in love with that whole cast and it was so, so brilliant. Now none of us have to watch the 2004 movie ever again (sorry if you're actually a fan)!

Ruby Danderfluff said...

Hey Indigo! Just recently discovered your blog via the comment board on "Yet Another Period Drama Blog"... (I like checking out other blogs that way) What a great series of reviews!

"from what I've heard, this adaptation isn't on par with the BBC's Bleak House and Little Dorrit..."

Indigo Montoya said...

Hey Ruby! Thanks for the compliment. And I love your bunny : )

Sarah said...

Dickens wrote some amazing books, but I reckon my personal favourites would have to be Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, Bleak House (the adaptions for these two are amazing, and I throughly recommend them!), and Nicholas Nickleby. (there's a bit of a theme coming out here - dramatic tales with a bit of comic relief, and the unknown-children-turing-out-to-rich sequence that Dickens loved in all of these novels). I've read the Old Curiousity Shop, and didn't like it (!!!), and although ATale of Two Cities was an amazing story (with a great hero!), it just didn't seem like a 'Dickens' novel, if you know what I mean?
No, I'm "not really" a fan of the 2004 movie of Phantom! It was a good movie, but a horrific misinterpretation of the stage musical. : ) Raoul was the brightest star (with the worst hair) in the whole thing, but I thought Gerald Butler simply portrayed the Phantom as a sexed-up bad boy with a rock voice rather than the deformed genius that the Phantom really is. But there are a few good parts.

Indigo Montoya said...

Thanks for answering Sarah. I'm looking forward to reading all of your favourites : )