Great Expectations Review

Having never been a big fan of the classics, I didn’t have particularly great expectations of this new adaptation of the classic Charlie dickens novel, ah, Great Expectations.

Which worked out surprisingly well for me.

Pip is a kind hearted, curly haired boy adrift in the class riddled society of 18th century England, where the greatest ambition a prole can have is to dream of having the means to become a gentleman.

Whatever that meant back in the day.

So when he happens upon a villainous and dirty looking fellow in chains and matching beard, Pip goes out of his way to get him some food.

Either that or the prisony looking bloke threatened to kill him while the young boy was visiting his dead mother’s grave.

Like I said, this dude’s a villain; which I suppose makes our orphan the hero.

Anyway, our orphan hero is lucky enough to be picked up by the most privileged woman in the land, Miss Havisham, to come and play with her adopted daughter Estella.

Being a prole, the mere idea of getting to play in a mansion is like the most exciting ever, so our Pip does as he’s told and goes toddling off like a good little boy.

Once there, Pip soon realises his place in Miss Havisham’s life is purely for her own entertainment, but he likes Estella so much that he doesn’t mind putting up with all the baggage that comes with being Little Miss ‘avisham’s puppet if it means he gets to spend time with her.

Inevitably, it’s not long before the good lady of the house tires of Pip’s company and sends him packing like so many before him with a handful of guineas’ for his troubles.

Many moons pass and the little boy formerly known as Pip is now a handsome young man known as, ah, Pip; and he’s in training to be a blacksmith like his adoptive father Joe.

Til one day a mysterious lawyer known as Mr Jaggers comes a knocking with the offer of a lifetime for Pip.

Great Expectations starts out exactly as I thought it would, cold, dark and dank 18th centuryish England with a bleak outlook on life.

Yet once young Pip grows up, and we follow his adult adventures around London town, I found myself completely immersed in the world of that director Mike Newell has created.

There are a couple of reasons for this, first off the ensemble cast are rather good; from the two young leads Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger who play Pip and Estella respectively, to the tried and tested excellence of Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter as supporting heavyweights Magwitch and Miss Havisham and everyone in between.

But mostly, it’s because Dickens was such a jolly good writer.

Who knew?

The enduring themes of love and rising above your own station in life are still relatable today, and the twists that come during the final act are better disguised than most every other hollywood screenwriter I’ve known.

Of course, being brand new to Dickens also puts me in a minority and I’ve heard many a tale of other adaptations that are superior to Newell’s production.

Still, if Great Expectations is as new to you as it was to me, then you won’t be disappointed.

Jonathan Campbell

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November 2012
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