Lacklustre adaptation of Dickens’ novel starring Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Irvine
The challenges of bringing such a hefty literary work as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to the screen are no doubt great. Mike Newell’s adaptation sadly fails to overcome them, and despite an all star cast is an overlong, limp re-working, which plods through the story with little inspiration.
Many will know the tale well: Pip (Toby Irvine and later Jeremy Irvine) is an orphan living with his sister (Sally Hawkins) and her blacksmith husband Joe (Jason Flemyng). One day he’s invited to the derelict mansion of Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter), who introduces him to her young daughter Estella (Helena Barlow, then Holliday Grainger) and where he becomes captivated with the idea of becoming a gentleman. His wish is later fulfilled when a mysterious benefactor pays for his move to London.
Sadly the source material doesn’t shine here. One scene where Pip meets with his brother-in-law Joe (who is in London to visit him), in particular lacks deftness: aiming to show the class differences that now divide them, it plays out in a predictable manner in a restaurant with Joe embarrassing Pip with his commoner ways. Heavy-handed and cliched, it’s just one example of the flat scripting.
On the plus side Helena Bonham Carter is a reliable presence as Miss Havisham and Holliday Grainger plays a particularly beautiful Stella. Olly Alexander also injects life into a few scenes as Pip’s energetic London friend Herbert. But overall, despite the abundance of cobwebs and dust in the Havisham mansion, this adaption has a glossy, superficial feel to it. More grit, texture and emotion are what’s needed to really bring this story to life.
Great Expectations screened at London Film Festival 2012. It’s on general release from Fri 30 Nov.