GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2012)
Sometime before Christmas in the Kent countryside in early 19th century England, the kind hearted young orphan, Pip (Toby Irvine) comes to the aid of a desperate escapee (Ralph Fiennes) while an apprentice at the blacksmith, Joe Gargery (Jason Flemyng) and his harsh wife (Sally Hawkins). But when sometime later the lawyer Mr Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) arrives with news that Pip (Jeremy Irvine) has come into much property thanks to a secret benefactor and he, Mr Jaggers is to be his guardian, Pip's life changes: he moves to London and soon becomes a gentleman. But he never forgets his sometime playmate, the sweet little Estella (Helena Barlow) the daughter of strange Mrs Havesham (Helena Bonham Carter) who lives in a mansion with the time stopped at 8.40 on all the clocks, and she forever in her faded and torn wedding gown (unused). Years pass, and Pip's new life as a well to do gentleman puts him in strange company, but he never forgets Estelle. When he meets the now grown up Estella (Holliday Grainger), Pip discovers she is about to marry the dastardly Bentley Drummle (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) - and the escapee he once helped turns up again, introduces himself as Mr Magwitch and reveals a surprise; but Mr Jaggers has a few more surprises for him, as well.
Review by Louise Keller:
The defining performances of Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter as Magwitch and Miss Havisham respectively form the solid basis of Mike Newell's haunting and faithful depiction of Charles Dickens' 19th century novel. Through David Nicholl's screenplay, the journey of its young orphan protagonist from his humble beginnings in the English marshlands to that of a gentleman's life in London is brought vividly to life.
The windy moors, heavy boots and illiterate lifestyle of the blacksmith's home only become distasteful to young Pip (Toby Irvine), when he becomes besotted by the beautiful young Estella (Helena Barlow), whose heart has been turned to ice by her controlling guardian, Miss Havisham. Bonham Carter is a vision in eccentricity as the woman who has closeted herself away in her derelict home since the day she was jilted at the altar and is still dressed in her shredded wedding gown.
Like Dickens' novel, the story begins on the barren, windy marshes, when Pip, visiting his mother's grave, is terrified by a shackled, escaped convict. The small act of kindness the boy bestows on Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes) involving a pork pie, brandy and a blacksmith's file, is quickly forgotten by Pip as he is invited as a curiosity to play with Estella in the creaking house where sunlight never enters. Miss Havisham's intentions are plain when she tells Estella: 'You can break his heart.'
These early years are well established, just as the crucial strong bond between Pip and his sister's blacksmith widower Joe (Jason Flemyng) is developed. Robbie Coltrane is well cast as the London lawyer Mr Jaggers, who delivers the news to the older Pip (Jeremy Irvine), that great expectations are in order as a result of a financial arrangement by a secret benefactor to enable him to become a gentleman.
The contrast of Pip's new life in London has never seemed greater as when Joe visits him - and Pip is embarrassed by his inability to fit in. With Pip's suspicions about Miss Havisham being his secret benefactor not being denied and his joy that she has engineered his future so that he and Estelle can be together, he at last feels in control of his life.
Fiennes inhabits Magwitch with such tenacity it is hard to recognise the face beneath the common accent. Through the maze of dark secrets that start to become apparent as Magwitch reappears, the essence of the story lies in the relationship between Pip and Estella (Holliday Grainger). He cannot get her out of his thoughts - she is with him all the time. Grainger, with her porcelain skin and auburn hair is a vision in loveliness but like a picture on a page. She and Irvine are good together.
With its authentic production design and lilting tempo that seems to reflect the times, I really enjoyed this version of the film and the storytelling elements weave together naturally to come to their eventual and satisfying conclusion.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the great novels of the great Charles Dickens, Great Expectations has stood the test of time as a story, possibly because it reflects a flawed society and imperfect characters, some of whom seek and find redemption of some kind. It's a sprawling work, and director Mike Newell with writer David Nicholls find a way to squeeze it into a cinematic form. Newell retains the core elements of the story and key characters as well as the authentic elements of the period, but still manages to make the film a fresh experience. Perhaps it's the intangible contempo sensibilities of the cast and their accessible delivery.
Some of his best choices are indeed the casting, with all the key characters superbly envisioned - and performed with matching creativity. From young Toby Irvine as the little boy to the older Pip - played by his older brother Jeremy - and from Robbie Coltrane as Jaggers to Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Havesham, they all deliver everything Newell could ask for. Ralph Fiennes is wonderful as Magwitch, and Holliday Grainger is outstanding as Estella, whose emotional redemption is perhaps the most poignant of all.
The screenplay teases out Pip's decency as its moral platform and builds up the love story around which the rest of the events are told - and seen. It charts the dramas and the joys with great vigour. There is no attempt to drag 1820s sensibilities into the 21st century, thank goodness, and by leaving social mores where they were, we are given a much more insightful work than we were in the 1998 Alfonso Cuarón version, adapted by Mitch Glazer.
In that context especially, production design is crucial and Jim Clay's work is astonishing, capturing the difference between life for the wealthy and the poor, the city and the country, the men and the women, the decent and the venal.
Notable, too, is John Mathieson's wonderful lighting camerawork, especially the complex interiors without resorting to fancy tricks to find light sources. It is at once a classical work, yet it isn't predictable or stale and the emotional engine never stops running.
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GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2012) (PG)
CAST: Jeremy Irvine, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Flemyng, Bobbie Coltrane, Holliday Grainger, Sally Hawkins, Sophie Rundle, Ewen Bremmer,
PRODUCER: David Faigenblum, Elizabeth Karlsen, Emanuel Michael, Stephen Woolley
DIRECTOR: Mike Newell
SCRIPT: David Nicholls (novel by Charles Dickens)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Mathieson
EDITOR: Tariq Anwar
MUSIC: Richard Hartley
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Clay
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 7, 2013
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