'Great Expectations' (2012) Movie Review

There is a passage from Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" that I think is better than the rest. It's the moment Estella, speaking to Pip, tells him she has "no heart". Her monologue in that moment says so much in my opinion, about her view of herself, what she believes she deserves and whom she always will be. That scene in David Lean's 1946 adaptation couldn't be better, in Mike Newell's latest adaptation it doesn't fall flat, but it doesn't stand out as much as I wished it would. The same could be said for the film itself, which is perfectly serviceable, but overall nothing that offers a shift to the landscape.

'Great Expectations'
Grade: B-

Great Expectations"Great Expectations" is a Main Street Films release, directed by Mike Newell and is rated PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images.

The cast includes Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemyng, Sally Hawkins and Holliday Grainger.

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis click here.

Dickens' novel has been adapted for the screen a myriad of times, from silent films to modern adaptations and just as soon as it begins, it's quite clear why. Great Expectations, if told with a competent cast, as it is here, is simply a fantastic story. And while this film doesn't entirely convince you it was an adaptation worth undertaking, it is still a great story nevertheless.

I'm sure you know the plot, so I'll keep this brief... The film centers on Pip (Jeremy Irvine), an orphan that eventually finds himself the recipient of some property courtesy of a mysterious benefactor. The gift grants him the opportunity to make a life for himself as a gentleman in the class system of London. The chance also opens the door for him to meagerly pursue the lovely, yet hard-hearted Estella (Holliday Grainger), though fate or something darker seems to be keeping them apart.

All the familiar faces are here with Ralph Fiennes doing what he does as Magwitch and ditto Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, a piece of casting that seems a little too on the nose to the point I'm not sure I can tell any longer where Carter ends and her characters begin. Robbie Coltrane plays Jaggers, Jason Flemyng as Joe and Ben Lloyd-Hughes is perfectly sinister as Bentley Drummle.

For the two leads, I liked Grainger as Estella, her looks are quite overpowering and she handles the material well, and Irvine showed far more talent here than he did in War Horse. Maybe that's talent, or maybe it's because the dialogue he was reading here was some of literature's most classic prose compared to the melodramatic junk in War Horse.

I also enjoyed Richard Hartley's score, which every so often had a slight modern edge to it, and John Mathieson has some crane shots that really worked, particularly early in the film as Pip runs along the creek's edge.

From a production standpoint, at times the locations are a bit bland and at no point was I impressed with the design of Miss Havisham's tattered estate. Everything involving her character seemed so incredibly over the top. The set was overdressed as was Bonham Carter. Things only felt real during Estella's "I am what you have made me" moment, but even that loses it's impact as it tapers off and the set begins to swallow the scene up.

And every so often, scenes felt staged. There were moments I felt I could be watching a stage play as Pip would exit stage left and others would enter behind him. This, contrasted with some excellent location shots, can become a bit distracting as the film wears on.

For Dickens fans, however, I think you'll at least be pleased this isn't some butchering of the prose and may even quite enjoy it. It is a satisfying telling, but, again, you've probably seen better.