Monday, May 23, 2011

Great Expectations (1999)

Staring Ioan Gruffudd & Justine Waddell
I recently re-watched Great Expectations (1999) and realized I'd never done a review about it. When I first watched this film adaptation I had a hard time getting into the story and didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. But this time, probably because I've seen the longer 1971 BBC adaptation, I understood the story and was able to enjoy the film more. I still haven't read the book but hope to read it one day. 

Abel Wagwitch (Bernard Hill) & Young Pip 
Storyline: When the story begins Pip is a young orphan living with his strict bitter sister and her kindly blacksmith husband Joe. One day when he's visiting his parent's graves he meets up with an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, who scares Pip into bringing him provisions. Abel is later caught by the police but Pip never betrays him. Pip's prospects begin to look up when he is engaged by the mysterious Miss Haversham to play with her ward the beautiful but haughty Estella. Pip grows up being trained as Joe's blacksmith apprentice but dreams of becoming an educated gentleman. His dreams come true when a mysterious benefactor provides for him to live in style putting him in league to court the lovely Estella. Who is Pip's mysterious benefactor? Why does Estella seem to like him one moment and detest him the next? Will he ever find out the secret of her parentage? 

Actress Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham
Settings:  Dark, dreary and very Dickenesque! Miss Havisham's rambling house is particularly well done - all overgrown weeds, cobwebs, and shadows. Outdoor scenes are are bleak and well done. Sets are filled with amazing period furniture, fabrics and props. Miss Havisham's wedding hall is particularly hasty, filled with mice, roaches and maggots that are a little creepy but to great effect.

Lovely Justine Waddell as Estella

All costumes are in perfect keeping with the late Victorian time period. Great distinction is made between the poorer characters and the rich characters. Miss Havisham is stuck in the styles of her youth. Grown up Pip's high top hats, pattern vests and charming cravats are very well suited. Estella's gowns and bonnets are perfectly exquisite! And her hair is done is several very pretty Victorian styles which I've tried to duplicate. I only wish I could find more photos of her lovely gowns!

Actor Clive Russell as Joe Gargery
Actors You Might Recognize:

Handsome Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Pip
My Thoughts: Great Expectations isn't my favorite Charles Dickens story. The plot and mystery isn't as evident or as moving as in his other novels. I also don't find the characters as sympathetic as in other novels. But it is still an interesting story because it is Dickens. Even though Pip spends most of the story chasing foolish dreams and making unwise choices he is good at heart and learns through his story. In this way he reminds me a bit of a masculine counterpart of Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse. And even though Estella can be cruel you can't help but be concerned for her because Pip is. There are some sweet characters (like Joe and Biddy) and some comical characters (like Herbert Pocket and Mr. Wemmick with his "aged parent") that give the story more interest and charm.  

Pip (Ioan Gruffudd) & Estella (Justine Waddell) 
My Recommendation: Dickens themes are always interesting but sometimes adaptations can be quite dark at times so this isn't suitable for young children. There are a few thematic scenes: young Pip is treated roughly by his sister, there are two criminal chase scenes, a few sad scenes in a prison and one scene with fire and death. There is no offensive language or innuendo. This is a beautiful period drama and I recommend it to all of you who love Charles Dickens films (like Little Dorrit or Our Mutual Friend) and interesting characters. 

Music Video:
The lovely video below shows screencaps from the film accompanied by a piece of piano music. Not made by me.

Have you ever seen this Great Expectations adaptation? 
What did you think of it? 
Have you ever read the book? 
Do you have a favorite character from this Dickens tale?

Very Truly Your's,


Jemimah C. said...

This Great Expectations (1999) looks quite promising. I've read the book though it didn't turn out to be one of my favorites. It was rather boring when I read it, and the end appeared to be a rather "unhappy" one, but maybe I should try to read it again to understand it more. But I'd like to watch this movie version.

Marian said...

I think I've seen this version twice...rather depressing, but so is the book (which I think was the first Dickens I read). In general, I prefer the '81 BBC version. I'll admit, I only watched this one because of Ioan Gruffudd, but I also really like Magwitch in this version. My favorite character, by far, is Herbert Pocket! :)

Melanie said...

I did NOT like this adaption of "Great Expectations." Which is sad, because I adore Ioan Gruffudd. ;-)

I loved the book but the movie just seemed so dark and depressing and didn't carry the bit of humor Dickens included in the book (not in the story as much as the way he told it :-) ).
And I didn't like Justine Waddell playing such a nasty character after seeing her as sweet Molly Gibson.

OldFashionedCharm said...

Thank you for your honest opinion! I got back and forth with this adaptation. I've never read the book so don't really know the story. When I first watched this adaptation I didn't really like it because it because I had a hard time seeing the plot of the story and it ends not sad exactly, but rather plainly, nothing exciting. I liked the 1981 BBC adaptation of Great Expectations, it was a lot livelier and the plot was more interesting. When I watched the 1999 adaptation again I liked it better because I enjoy Ioan Gruffudd and Justine Waddell, these certainly aren't my favorite roles but I did like this adaptation fairly well.

~Miss Laurie

Anonymous said...

I fell on love with Pip and just wanted Estella to fall on love with him. Gruffids best role is Hornblower! He is wonderful.

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