Monday, April 16, 2012

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

Last night Masterpiece Theatre aired the second of their new Charles Dickens adaptations in honor his birthday bicentennial. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012) is an adaptation of Dickens' final unfinished work, cleverly finished by a modern day mystery writer.

I enjoyed watching this film with my parents and teenage siblings, there were some laughs, sweet friendships, lovely characters and an interesting mystery. Here's my thoughts on this beautiful period drama.

You can watch the trailer on the PBS website and watch online for a limited time.

Synopsis: John Jasper is a troubled man, his psyche split between darkness and light. He has spent his life in the stifling and claustrophobic cathedral village of Cloisterham in a state of frustrated ambition, and has become addicted to opium in an attempt to still his ennui and expand his horizons. But the opium is fracturing Jasper's mind so that even as his soul reaches for the sublime in his music, his darker self has conceived a murderous hatred of his nephew Edwin Drood, who, he believes, stands between him and the lovely Rosa Bud. When two orphan twins Neville and Helena Landless arrive in town, Jasper's dark desires take shape and morph into shocking, drug-fueled action. Jasper's obsessions push him closer to the edge of sanity, while the most disturbing secrets of Cloisterham remain buried. (Read more about the history of Edwin Drood in my post.)

Tamzin Merchant & Freddie Fox as Rosa & Edwin
Script: Written by Gwyneth Hughes, the first half is based on Charles Dickens' original work and last half is an original ending penned by the script writer. A lot of Dickens' original dialog seems to be used and the only one scene that I could tell was added to the beginning to tie in the ending. The ending has several twists and turns which greatly surprised me. Ms. Hughes did a great job of including things crucial to Dickens plots: humor, friendship, tender love and an incredible mystery story!

Rosa's school
Scenes: Beautiful country houses, charming gardens, a grand cathedral, spooky catacombs and dark opium houses. Some scenes are very dark and scary but they are balanced well with brighter and cheerier scenes.

Amber Rose Revah as Helena Landless
Costumes: Rosa and Helena have some beautiful Victorian style dresses and pretty shawls. Edwin Drood wears interesting printed cravats and elegant waistcoats in rich colors. Each actor's costumes perfectly fit their character. The ladies have lovely hairstyles and the guys have period mutton chops or sideburns. Rosa's hair is frequently down in curls which might not be correct for the period but it suits her younger age. And like Mr. Dickens specified to the illustrator of his original work Mr. Jasper wears two cravats throughout most of the film!

Matthew Rhys as Mr. John Jasper
Music: As John Jasper is a choirmaster the church music is very important to the story and here it does not disappoint. The boys choir has a beautiful sound and actor Matthew Rhys even sings a bit during the film. In one scene at an evening party Rosa sings a lovely rendition of 'Endearing Young Charms' accompanied by Mr. Jasper on the piano. Other music in the film is a good combination of creepy and happy to fit every scene.

Actors In Their Roles:
Freddie Fox as Edwin Drood - Edwin is a spoiled young man who has inherited his father's fortune and has his whole life planned out for him. He's engaged to Rosa Bud but she is unsure about the match and he doesn't seem to deserve her. His thoughtless behavior gets him in to trouble which might just be fatal. Freddie Fox gives a brilliant portrayal.

Tamzin Merchant as Rosa Bud - Heroine of the tale, Rosa is brave and strong minded. Although she is engaged to Edwin she does not love him and is rather pert and scornful towards him when they meet. She is frightened by Mr. Jasper's attentions to her but she bravely bears with them. Tamzin Merchant did a wonderful job portraying this spirited heroine, it's wonderful to see her doing so many period dramas lately!

Matthew Rhys as John "Jack" Jasper - Choirmaster, Edwin's uncle, drug addict and a man of secrets, Mr. Jasper is one of the worst of Dickens' villainous characters. Although he plays the devoted uncle his constant nightmares while under the influence of opium are all about killing Edwin and claiming Rosa as his own. The secrets at the end revolve mostly around him and tend to make him seem a little less villainous which was nice but a bit odd. His character overall reminded me of a rather darker version of Bradley Headstone (Our Mutual Friend). Actor Matthew Rhys gave a disturbing but amazing performance as this troubled and creepy character.

Alun Armstrong as Mr. Hiram Grewgious - No Charles Dickens adaptation is quite the same without actor Alun Armstrong so it was wonderful to see him cast as Rosa's kind guardian. Mr. Grewgious keeps a close eye on Rosa and always acts in her best interest. Mr. Armstrong in this role showed his great versatility, the character was kind, gentlemanly, a bit sentimental but very smart. He greatly surprised me by using a genteel accent which I've never heard him use before! Definitely my favorite character of from the film!

Sacha Dhawan & Amber Rose Revah as Neville & Helena Landless - This twin sibling duo comes from Ceylon to Cloisterham to live with Reverend Crisparkle and his mother. Helena goes to the ladies school with Rosa and the two before fast friends. Neville is angered by the inappropriate attention Rosa receives from Mr. Jasper and the careless treatment she receives from Edwin. Neville and Edwin quarrel before he dissappears making Neville the prime suspect. Helena is a sweet and brave young lady who might have romance in her future. Sacha and Amber are new to me but they did a wonderful job in the roles of these siblings who have secrets in their past.

Rory Kinnear as Rev. Septimus Crisparkle & Julia McKenzie as Mrs. Crisparkle - Rev. Crisparkle is the kind vicar of Cloisterham and his widowed mother Mrs. Crisparkle keeps house for him. They are very close and often make each other laugh. When Neville and Helena come to stay with them the Crisparkles welcome them with open arms but when Edwin Drood disappears they disagree over his innocence. Rev. Crisparkle helps Neville as much as he can and turns out to be a bit of a heroic figure. Rory Kinnear & Julia McKenzie are no strangers to period dramas and it was wonderful to see their familiar faces portray such interesting characters.

Ron Cook as Durdles & Alfie Davis as Deputy - Durdles is the drunken and slightly creepy caretaker for the cathedral's graveyard and catacombs. Deputy is a young orphan who follows him around and acts as lookout on several occasions when Durdles is up to no good. Ron Cook is excellent in the role, you may remember him from Little Dorrit or He Knew He Was Right.

David Dawson as Bazzard - Bazzard works for Mr. Grewgious and when secrets need to be revealed he is sent to investigate. A rather curious characters but he gets at the truth. Played very well by actor David Dawson who is a new face to me.

Neville Landless & Edwin Drood
My Thoughts: Besides some scary themes and a few creepy overtures of love from Mr. Jasper to Rosa, I really enjoyed The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Beautiful costumes and scenery, many interesting characters and a twisted tale made this a great piece. From all that I can tell this seems a faithful adaptation of the original work. There were many humorous lines and sweet scenes, adventure and mystery also abound.
For the most part I liked the ending that Gwyneth Hughes wrote it was a strong ending and fairly believable (which a mystery should be if it possibly can). There was a huge twist that I would never have expected and it leaves the viewer with a happy ending. Overall it's wonderful to have a lovely new adaptation of another Dickens classic and wonderful acting. I look forward to watching it again soon!

Alun Armstrong as Rosa's guardian Mr. Hiram Grewgious
My Recommendations: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012) contains a few creepy scenes, dark themes, a scene of murder (but no blood) and opium usage. Because of the scary themes I wouldn't recommend this film for small children but it would be fine for teens on up. I highly recommend this film for Charles Dickens, period drama and mystery fans. This is a great piece of period drama goodness and a fairly faithful adaptation of Dickens' original work.

Did you watch Edwin Drood on Masterpiece Theatre last night?
What did you think of it?
Have you read the book?

Very Truly Your's,


birdienl said...

What a lovely review! And I completely agree with everything you said, I enjoyed this movie also very much (watched it when it was broadcast on the BBC in January)There was really a lot of great acting, wasn't there?

Miss Woodhouse said...

Thanks for reviewing this film. Ever since I heard it was coming out, I've wanted to see it but since I have several young siblings I probably won't be able to anytime soon. However, thanks again for the review.

Hayden said...

haha!I watched this as well and I'm currently planning a review. Looks like you beat me to it! I agreed with you pretty much everything :)

Elisa said...

I watched this Sunday night and enjoyed it. A few were familiar but the rest were new faces to me.

Stephanie said...

I can't wait to see both of these films. I love the variety in Charles Dickens literature and films.


AJ said...

By chance I caught this film on our local PBS station. I missed a little of the beginning. I agree with all you said. The adaptation was quite good IMHO. My favorite scene was the end with the Rev. and Helena sitting on the bench with the other ladies watching them thru the window. :) Very sweet.

Jessica said...

I watched this online. It was pretty good, but very tragic. I must admit to feeling sorry for Mr. Jasper at the end, even though he was so dreadful thoughout the movie. I think his character shows the truth of how important a father's love is. And the tragic effect the lack thereof can have in children's lives.

I thought the film was a bit too short for a Dicken's story, because the second half was "made up", I'm sure.

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