Saturday, February 13, 2016

'Great Expectations': New take on a venerable classic

Pip (Jeremy Irvine), an orphan, pursues Estella (Holliday Grainger), a spoiled heiress, in director Mike Newell´s adaptation of the Dickens classic. (handout photo)
Pip (Jeremy Irvine), an orphan, pursues Estella (Holliday Grainger), a spoiled heiress, in director Mike Newell's adaptation of the Dickens classic. (handout photo)
About the movie
Great Expectations
Drama; Romance
MPAA rating:
for some violence including disturbing images
Running time:
Release date:
Sally Hawkins; Ralph Fiennes; David Walliams; Jason Flemyng; Helena Bonham Carter; Holliday Grainger; Sophie Rundle; Ewen Bremner; Robbie Coltrane
Directed by:
Mike Newell

The reason Great Expectations is adapted so repeatedly for film and TV is the sheer opulence of Charles Dickens' yarn. It's an epic coming-of-age story, with elements of fairy tale, mystery, and twisted romance.

British director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) makes a worthy addition to the canon, one that honors the source while making some small but significant alterations.

Newell gives the story a matte finish, as opposed to David Lean's glossy 1946 classic. He creates a convincing evocation of early Victorian England, particularly the squalid splendor of bustling London, without resorting to extensive CGI effects.

Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) plays the orphan Pip, for whom wisdom always arrives arm-in-arm with regret. In a felicitous bit of casting, Irvine's younger brother, Toby, plays the adolescent Pip.

More coverage
  • 'Blue Is the Warmest Color': Exhilarating story of lesbian love
  • Cult film 'The Room' gets a book treatment
  • Ralph Fiennes plays Magwitch, Pip's unlikely benefactor; Holliday Grainger, the steely Estella; and Robbie Coltrane, the string-pulling lawyer Jaggers. Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic as Miss Havisham, a widow without portfolio, fossilized in her own resentment. Bonham Carter, it becomes apparent, has been rehearsing this character uncredited for years in other movies.

    Screenwriter David Nicholls (Tess of the D'Urbervilles) effectively expands the role of Bentley Drummle (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), Pip's perfidious rival.

    More important, Nicholls has created a rich alternative conclusion, one that poignantly sweetens the love story.

    It's a novel approach to Great Expectations - sharp and gritty giving way to a sentimental finish - and a satisfying one.


    Great Expectations *** (out of four stars)

    Directed by Mike Newell. With Jeremy Irvine, Ralph Fiennes, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, and Robbie Coltrane. Distributed by Main Street Films.

    Running time: 2 hours, 8 mins.

    Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence)

    Showing at: Ritz Five and Carmike at the Ritz Center/NJ




    Inquirer TV Critic
    We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
    Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

    Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

    Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

    Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

    Read 0 comments
    comments powered by Disqus
    Latest Videos:
    Also on
    letter icon Newsletter