Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oliver Twist (2007)

Oliver Twist 2009 Oliver Twist isn't my favorite of Charles Dickens' novels. Its tale of a young boy born into the workhouse and faced with many adversities throughout his childhood years is quite heart-wrenching. So when Oliver Twist (2007) came to Masterpiece Theatre in the USA in 2009 I was not very interested at first. But I watched it and found it had some interesting moments which other period drama fans might enjoy.

Storyline: Oliver is born into poverty and misfortune - the son of an unmarried mother, who dies shortly after his birth. He grows up in the workhouse, where the cruel Mr. Bumble oversees children tormented by starvation and suffering. When Oliver dares to ask for more gruel, he finds himself cast out and sold to an undertaker and his rascal son. Running away to London, Oliver meets the Artful Dodger and his gang, as well as the beautiful Nancy, and gets the first warm welcome of his life - but he is soon to discover that this kindness is not all it seems. As Oliver is drawn deeper into the dark and murky underworld, he remains unaware that the kind Mr. Brownlow is searching for him, while others - the brutal criminal Bill Sykes, the manipulative Fagin and the mysterious Mr. Monks - are vying to ruin and destroy his life.


Scenes: Very dark and foreboding for the most part. All fit well with the time period. There is a great contrast between the cluttered, dirty back streets where Fagin lives and the clean beautiful home of rich Mr. Brownlow. Oliver also travels across some lovely outdoor scenes on his way to London. There is a lot of detailed layers in all of the scenes.


Costumes: Similar to the sets, the costumes are vastly contrasted between the good and bad characters, between rich and poor. Bad characters are clad in clothing made with rich tones and textures that are frayed and often dirty, giving an overall raggedy appearance. I take some issue with this idea that folks who make their living from thieving can't even steal some halfway decent clothes and a bar of soap every now and then.
By stark contrast the good characters wear spotless garments in light bright fabrics and colors. Mr. Brownlow's young ward Rose had some especially lovely dresses and neat hairstyles, and his housekeeper had some neat lace caps and a pretty broach.

Music: One thing that gives this adaptation almost a modern day feel in many ways is the music. An upbeat opening theme song starts the viewer on the journey through this bizarre tale. But I found the music played during the exciting scenes of a chase, near escape or something bad happening rather distracting and overpowering as it often featured the sound of drums or electric guitar played at a fast pace. It certainly does help to quicken the heartbeat and cement the feeling of dread or concern but I think it was a bit much.

Music Video:
The opening and ending theme songs are actually quite catchy. My sister and I enjoy listening to them by themselves. I made this video featuring four songs and photos from the film.

Actors You Might Recognize: One thing I really enjoyed was the familiar faces that just kept popping up throughout the film. Here are some of the folks you might recognize and their other roles in period dramas.

My Thoughts: There were things I liked and things I didn't care for. I found it very interesting that they cast dark skinned actress Sophie Okonedo as Nancy. I'm sure in Victorian London at the time there would have been African-British ladies of the evening but Charles Dickens' Nancy wasn't one of them. But I found Sophie Okonedo's portrayal very touching and it was easy to sympathize with her and to feel sad for her as she continues to trust Bill Sykes despite everything he does. Also I wonder at the filmmaker's bold references to Fagin's Jewish heritage. I haven't read Oliver Twist but I believe the trouble that the author was pointing to was the horrible treatment children like Oliver were receiving at the hands of people who were supposed to be helping, and nothing about the religious beliefs or prejudices of the day. I'm probably wrong, but I just thought Fagin's court scene at the end of the film was rather unnecessary.
The things I did like were the beauty and sanctuary of Mr. Brownlow's London home. It is so completely in keeping with the time period and it's occupants are so truly kind and gracious. Rose is the sweetest creature imaginable and the housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin is kind and wise. I also enjoyed the mysterious scoundrel Mr. Monks and seeing how his search for informations about Oliver progressed. Minor characters like Mr. Bumble and his power-seeking fiancée Mrs, Corney are quite funny as they vie for more money from Mr. Monks - funny in a bit of a cruel way. For the most part I enjoyed young actor William Miller as Oliver Twist. He is a bit older than I imaged Oliver, and there are a few scenes where he's more outspoken than the Oliver of the book. But this young actor deserves great credit for his accent and the earnestness of his portrayal.  


My Recommendations: This adaptation moves fairly quickly and the filmmakers added a bit of grit and adventure to the classic Dickens tale. It's an interesting look but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who likes a cleaner more polished period drama or is looking for a faithful adaptation. But to anyone who are fans of the actors this is a must see. Oliver Twist isn't a tale for the fain of heart, but it does end with the good triumphing and the bad being punished for their crimes.

Have you ever seen this adaptation? Did you enjoy it?
If you've read the book how does this adaptation compare?
Do you have a favorite character from Oliver Twist?

Do you feel they portrayed the characters well in this adaptation?

Trailer: This trailer is a preview from Masterpiece Theatre.

Very Truly Your's,


Anonymous said...

Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist, particularly the section "Allegations of antisemitism" for an historical basis as to why Fagan's religion was mentioned so often in this series.

Liz's Journal said...

It's strange that you didn't mention Tom Hardy's performance as Bill Sykes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...