Mike Newell, whose eclectic career has ranged from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," has given us a classic adaptation of Charles Dickens' beloved bildungsroman
That canon includes roughly 15 film versions of the tale that follows an apprentice blacksmith as he navigates the transition from poor village orphan to sponsored London gentleman.
Everyone knows the story: While being raised by his wicked sister (
Through the eyes of production designer Jim Clay, her estate is a time warp where all the clocks stopped at 20 minutes to 9, dust motes curling in the weak sunbeams that leak in to weakly illuminate layers of decay. In this space, and in the story, nothing can be seen clearly, obscured by shadows, veils and mottled mirrors.
Pip falls in love with the coldly beautiful Estella, of course, and is granted the chance to woo her when, years later, he's whisked off to London by a mysterious wealthy benefactor to become a gentleman. Pip (Jeremy Irvine) swiftly divests himself of his modest upbringing but is appalled to learn who's been footing his bills and that he wasn't necessarily meant for Estella (Holliday Grainger) after all.
Fresh-faced Irvine, recently seen in
Screenwriter David Nicholls crams hundreds of pages of child abuse and unrequited love, betrayal and revenge, identity and class into just over two hours by making judicious trims to Dickens' prodigious plot. But the film still feels rushed toward the end as the characters' intertwined backstories are revealed through exposition and distorted flashbacks.
A perfectly fine adaptation of a timeless novel, "Great Expectations" doesn't quite meet the promise of its title.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images
Running time: 2 hour, 9 minutes
Playing: At Laemmle Monica 4, Santa Monica; Regal Promenade Stadium 13, Rolling Hills Estates; Muvico Thousand Oaks 14 and MuviXL, Thousand Oaks; Paseo Camarillo Cinemas, Camarillo