LFF 2012 Review: Great Expectations
This year, the 56th annual London Film Festival concluded another fantastic week of brilliant movies with the newest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations, directed by Mike Newell. Packed with some hefty Harry Potter cast members, this old classic turned out to be one of the hottest new features.
Anything with Helena Bonham Carter already puts you in the spooky mood. She played the deranged Miss Havisham that liked playing with boys’ hearts after hers was broken by a wickedly crafted plan. Apparently she wheeled around with only one shoe on to stay true to the real character, even though it’s completely unnoticeable behind that crazy wedding gown. I love how she stayed true to the historical context but made this character her own with that crazy shrill voice and just aloofness that I can never get enough of.
Ben Lloyd-Hughes played the sort of villain Bentley Drummle that was more of a bully character that we didn’t get to see much of. However, whenever he was on screen I just wanted to see more of his nastiness. He said he’s a huge fan of Charles Dickens and was ecstatic to play a part in it. He said, “You can throw out the British politeness and you’re allowed to pretty much be the biggest asshole in the world.” Look out for the moment he throws a rotten pineapple, that according to him was actually real and smelled pretty ripe by the end of the shoot.
Scripting out this masterpiece must have been challenging, especially since we already know what the outcome of the story is before even walking into the theatre. But screen writer David Nicholls said it helped that that the actors were so strong since you really have to rely on them to draw out the depth of the characters. Luckily, Mike Newell was no stranger to character development, and actor Ewen Bremner told us it was refreshing to have a director know exactly what he wanted to see displayed on screen.
I was really surprised from this modern version because it was just so dark and dramatic, from the costuming to the setting. You literally get sucked into this spider’s web of incidents that slowly unravel to reveal the truth. I liked how Newell focused on the damaged emotions of each character, giving more depth to the story that a modern day audience can appreciate and relate to.
Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed with the love affair between Pip (Jeremy Irvine) or Estella (Holliday Grainger). It was a little difficult to believe Estella’s cold, unlovable heart with all of Pip’s overly desperate love for her just gushing out like a fresh wound. I wished they got more racier, but their romance felt really stale and unreal. Actually, Jeremy Irvine’s little brother played a more believable Pip with his naive approach to love that translated so well on screen.
However, I still thought it was a sweet story about a girl refusing to fall in love because she’s been brought up by a scorned woman, and you slowly warm up to them on screen and wish for them to be together. It’s truly inspiring to see such an old classic be able to touch us in a whole new way. The quote, “I have been bent and broken, but I hope into better shape,” made my heart sink, and although it gets a little sappy at the end, you’ll leave happy.