The new TV adaptation of Great Expectations (2011) aired on the BBC in three consecutive days just after Christmas. There was a lot of hype about this film and it seems to have been received with mixed feelings and has even become a bit of controversy.
A British YouTube user posted the miniseries on their channel and this is how I've been able to watch it and review it so quickly. I know several of my readers are looking forward to this adaptation so my hope is that this review will give you some idea whether you want to see it when it airs on PBS in April.
Not having read the book (but I hope to later this year) I have little to compare it with. I have watched and reviewed two other adaptations, Great Expectations (1981) and Great Expectations (1999), which will be referenced in this film review.
|Oscar Kennedy as Young Pip & Ray Winstone as Abel Magwitch|
About ten years later Pip is called to Satis house again and falls for the beautiful grownup Estella at first sight. Soon after the lawyer Mr. Jaggers delivers the news that an unknown benefactor has provided for Pip to be made a "gentleman of great expectations" with the proviso that he live in London and not make inquiries into who his benefactor's identity. But Pip is convinced that Miss Havisham has provided for him to become a gentleman and means for him to marry Estella. Pip goes to London where he is trained as a gentleman and squanders his generous monthly allowance on trying to look like the rich people he meets. In London Pip sees quite a bit of Estella and falls in love with her and she begins to soften a bit but the attentions of rich scoundrel Mr. Bentley Drummle make Pip anxious. As Estella's mysterious past begins to unravel Pip's unknown benefactor also comes to light but the truth may put the two young people in danger.
|Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham|
|Pip's home and the forge|
Costumes: The textures and colors of each character's clothing matches their personality and situation in life. Since the story spans some 8-12 years the styles, especially of the ladies' dresses, seem to be in keeping with the passing years. Miss Havisham's empire-waist wedding gown shows that she was a bride of the Regency era but gowns worn by Estella, and other ladies, show the waistlines have dropped slightly. Many of Estella's gowns were lovely but a few of them showed bare shoulders and seemed almost ready to fall off (but were not low cut). Pip's new fashionable clothes are very elegant and in rich tones. His clothing is used to show how much he changes as it progressively gets fancier and more expensive looking. He also on occasion wears almost identical jackets (photos above) as Mr. Bentley Drummle, showing that Pip is trying to emulate him.
Music: The original music in Great Expectations (2011) was composed by Martin Phipps whose other work you might have heard in North & South (2006), Ruby in the Smoke (2006), Persuasion (2007), Oliver Twist (2007) or Sense and Sensibility (2008). The music throughout is very touching and speaks beautifully of the hope, expectations, despair and joy in the story itself. Estella plays a couple pretty pieces on the piano and there are a few lovely Waltzes danced. The theme songs are quite catchy and have been running through my head lately.
Actors In Their Roles: The amazing cast of talented actors is what really drew me to this adaptation and I was by no means disappointed! Let me mention a few of them.
- Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham - Having been blown away by Ms. Anderson as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House (2005) I looked forward to her taking on the role of the bitter Miss Havisham. She made the character a bit more approachable and vulnerable than other actresses I'd seen in the role. Miss Havisham's real motives and revengeful nature are made clear early on in Episode one and as the story progresses she becomes whinny and agitated when she doesn't hear of Estella's conquests or when something happens which she does not like. She ends up seeming quite insecure and a bit depressed by the end of the film, I like Ms. Anderson but I'm not quite sure if I liked the way this adaptation played out her story.
- David Suchet as Mr. Jaggers - Jaggers is a stern lawyer who acts for Miss Havisham's interests and, coincidentally, those of Pip's benefactor. He is straight business and rather unfeeling to the many people who apply for his help. His story is a bit different in the end that he does seems to show some tenderness which I don't remember seeing in other adaptations. David Suchet is probably by favorite actor so I always look forward to seeing his prodigiously talented roles. The stern and straight-forward voice and character he donned quite surprised me at first but was completely Jaggers to me. There's one delightful scene at the beginning of Episode two that features Jaggers having a hasty lunch break at his office which results in some genius and slightly comical scrubbings and looks in the mirror. I loved Mr. Suchet in this role!
- Douglas Booth as Pip - Pip is rather a young and unwise character who grows from his experiences but my viewings of other adaptations (particularly Ioan Gruffudd as Pip in the 1999 film) had made me rather dissatisfied with the character. Not being very familiar with actor Douglas Booth I wasn't quite sure what to expect but on the whole I found this version of Pip more likable. Because Douglas Booth is younger he gives the character a feeling of this being a young man who is making great mistakes but he still has a good heart that is devoted to his true friends. Overall I liked him very well.
- Vanessa Kirby as Estella - Again from my experiences with other adaptations I didn't have a very good opinion of Estella, she seemed rather an anti-heroine. But in this film there is a change in her character towards the end of the film and she too learns from her mistakes. Vanessa Kirby brings makes Estella into a capable young woman who is growing increasingly tired of manipulation and restraint and sees in Pip kindness and friendship. I liked the Estella a lot better in this film and look forward to reading the book and finding out more about her character.
- Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket - Herbert is one character that I've always liked in the various adaptations I've seen. He's a true kindhearted friend to Pip and helps him when he needs it most. My blogging friend Mel is a huge fan of actor Harry Lloyd so I was looking forward to seeing how well her favorite acted in this role. I have to say I absolutely loved Harry Lloyd in this role, he is charming, witty, positive spirited and plays a wonderful friend for Pip! Some of the best scenes feature him, one in particular where with good humor he lets Pip step on his toes while teaching him to dance - a very funny scene!
- Shaun Dooley as Joe Gargery - Joe is another favorite character from other adaptations, he's like a father to Pip and a very kind and forgiving friend. Shaun Dooley's performance made the character much more of a father and a bit stronger and less good-humored than other adaptations but he was alright.
- Ray Winstone as Able Magwitch - Magwitch is the escaped convict who young Pip helps and he shows up later in the story. I'd seen Ray Winstone play a few rough character roles before and this role was also very well done. Magwitch is a rough criminal who does have a bit of a softer side to him and this actor played him very well I thought. Also kudos to Mr. Winstone for rolling about in water and mud with bare feet for most of his scenes - some of the water scenes looked very cold!
- Tom Burke as Bentley Drummle - Drummle is a rich society man who Pip tries to emulate in fashion. He is a black-hearted scoundrel who takes what he wants and cares very little for other people. He teases Pip calling him "Pippity Pip" and "Pippy" and tries to steal Estella's attentions away from him as well. Tom Burke played this villain so convincingly that I wanted to reach in and the screen and hit him almost every time he swaggered into view!
|Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket|
- "If you can’t beat a boy at Christmas, when can you beat him?" - Mr. Pumblechook
- "Imagine what a world is out there for someone different and extraordinary." - Miss Havisham
- "It is the ghost of a wedding cake and I am the ghost of a bride. Time stands still and yet everything turns to dust." - Miss Havisham
- "I do not want to know the truth, the law does not require it." - Mr. Jaggers
- "Everyone is meant to love me. But I don’t love back. I do not have a heart." - Estella Havisham
- "We will see this through together but see it through, we must." - Herbert Pocket
Miss Havisham: What is beauty?
Estella: A destroyer.
Miss Havisham: What is happiness?
Estella: A deception.
Miss Havisham: What is love?
|David Suchet as Mr. Jaggers|
The bad - Even though this adaptation was shown in three parts I found that it moved rather quickly. It seems to have cut out a lot of the original novel and focused more on the overall theme of the story. There also seems to be essential characters and subplots that were left out. Very little time is spent getting to know some of the characters like Jaggers' clerk Wemmick or Herbert Pocket and his fiancee Clara. I suspect there are also a few scenes that have been added (especially between Estella and Pip) that would not be found in Mr. Dickens' original work. Also there's a lack of Dickensian sounding dialog in this film, there's more of a modern/updated feel to the words coming from the character's mouths.
The good - As I've said earlier I had a hard time really understanding the characters and storyline in other adaptations, but this adaptation brings the essential plot points to light and fleshes out the characters a bit more. Many of the characters are more likable as well, particularly the hero Pip and his love interest Estella which seems to me a very important point. Also this film seems to have more twists and turns and (dare I say it) more of a point or goal that it was working towards instead of just rambling along as other adaptations seem to do. Also this adaptation has a fairly happy ending which sees Pip & Estella free to marry, this ending is the one preferred by most except for Charles Dickens whose first ending was less idyllic.
So even though this adaptation may not be completely accurate I still liked it and it has inspired me to read the book.
|Vanessa Kirby as Estella & Douglas Booth as Pip|
BBC's official Great Expectations page (clips not available in USA)
Masterpiece Theatre's Great Expectations page (will add offical when available)
My post with photos and the trailer
Wikipedia page (breaks down each episode)
Great Expectations (2011) will be aired in two parts, April 1st & 8th, on Masterpiece Theatre. I don't have information yet as to whether any scenes from the original will be cut out.
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Feel free to ask questions about details of the film!