I had expectations that were rather great for this one!
As I move towards middle age (well I don’t really think 30 is middle-aged but go with me) I am become a fan of some more classic and mature entertainment. One person whose works I am getting excited about is Charles Dickens, I read Oliver Twist a few years back and loved it. Since then I have seen the TV version Great Expectations and some really good adaptations of A Christmas Carol (none as good as the Muppets though!), I also have A Tale of Two Cities sitting patiently on my shelf. So when a movie version of Great Expectations appeared in the cinema I jumped at the chance to watch it. I knew as I entered I would be comparing the TV version with Gillian Anderson to it. I think that is what started the film on a downer, I loved the actors in the TV version and the film version just didn’t add up. The biggest issue, however, was the speed of the piece. Anyone who has read a Dickens novel will know that there is so much happening that to fit it all in a two-hour movie is nigh on impossible. Where the TV version showed how Pip fell for Estella and how strange and wounded Miss Havisham has become the film seems to rush over this. The children only seemed to meet twice before he is paid off. Havisham as well, although well acted by Helen Bonham Carter, does not seem to have the ethereal bemusemen of Anderson’s. The end of the story seems somewhat rushed as well, suddenly Magwitch is discovered where as in the TV version the tension builds up. There are also differences in characters, the TV version dispenses with Pip’s teacher but has another blacksmith. Which is correct? I don’t know. All in all the movie is too rushed, I only understood some parts from seeing the TV version. Adding an extra hour to explain bits may help, particularly as there is the classic reveal at a few points in the film. The characters explaining their past with a fuzzy flash back. It falls into the lowest common denominator role making the audience feel as if they are too stupid to work things out for themselves. In all truth it was a disappointment, maybe if I hadn’t seen the TV version I would not have compared and really enjoyed the film, yet I think I would have come out confused. I think the only real answer is to grab the book and understand the complex layering of the story through Dickens words. I did read one review before going to see Great Expectations that said solid but not brilliant. I would utter those sentiments exactly.