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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

SYNOPSIS:
Finnegan Bell (Jeremy Kissner) is a 10 year old living with his older sister Maggie (Kim Dickens) and her husband, Uncle Joe (Chris Cooper), a Floridian handyman. A typical poor kid, Finn's uneventful life is briefly interrupted by a chance encounter with Arthur Lustig (Robert De Niro), an escaped convict who threatens to harm the boy and his family if he doesn't help. Not knowing any better, Finn does help Lustig who, although recaptured, never forgets the boy's help. Meanwhile, desperate for work, Uncle Joe takes a job cleaning up the overgrown, dilapidated mansion of Ms. Dinsmoor (Anne Bancroft), a rich, but mentally deranged woman who never recovered from being stood up on her wedding day. Tagging along with his uncle to the mansion, Finn briefly meets Estella (Raquel Beaudene), Dinsmoor's young, but prissy niece. Noting their attraction to each other, Dinsmoor "hires" Finn to entertain her and Estella. Soon the years have passed, and Finn (Ethan Hawke) finds that he's still attracted to Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow), despite her aloofness. She leaves to study abroad, however, and being distraught, he gives up his life-long passion of drawing. More years pass and Finn finds that a mysterious benefactor has arranged for him to travel to New York to pursue a career as an artist. Once there, he again finds Estella, but she's now engaged to Walter Plane (Hank Azaria), a wealthy, arrogant architect. As Finn attempts to become a professional artist, he must balance that with his renewed love for Estella.

"Not even Alfonso Cuarón’s stylish direction nor the star-power of Hawke, Paltrow and De Niro can save this classic remake from being more than an incredible yawn. The main problem with Great Expectations lies in the trite script, and characters that fail to engage and make us care about them. The contrived storyline has no chance to achieve the emotions and passion that Dickens’ intricate tale weaves: realised superbly in David Lean’s screen version with John Mills and Jean Simmons. The core of the problem with the storyline lies with the central character of Finn, who is not fully developed into a living person. As a young boy, Finn is drawn most successfully: his child-like awe and crush on Estella is perhaps the most charming part of the film. The scene by the fountain at Ms Dinsmoor’s skeletal run-down mansion, where the young Estella and Finn share their first kiss, is the film’s most delightful moment. As an adult, the ease with which Finn’s discarded art is revived and made into a commercial success is both unbelievable and frustrating. The actors are as good as the script allows them to be. De Niro has presence as the escaped convict, although there’s not much continuity between his character in the early scenes and the benefactor later in the film. Anne Bancroft’s performance is reminiscent of Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard: through her over-the-top performance, Bancroft achieves the very essence of a pathetic lost soul, who shares a moving moment with Hawke. While attractive to the senses with good production values and an appealing music score, Great Expectations is a disappointment, an underwhelming journey devoid of passion, drama and substance."
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

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See Helen Beck's FEATURE on
The Making of
Great Expectations.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (M)
(US)

CAST: Robert De Niro, Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Azaria, Chris Cooper, Anne Bancroft, Josh Mostel, Kim Dickens, Nell Campbell, Gabriel Mick, Jeremy James Kissner, Raquel Beaudene, Stephen Spinella

PRODUCER: Art Linson

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón

SCRIPT: Mitch Glazer (based on the novel by Charles Dickens)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Emmanuel Lubezki

EDITOR: Steven Weisberg

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Burrough

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 26, 1998







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