TV miniseries review: Great Expectations (BBC, 2011), directed by Brian Kirk
tl;dr: Pretty and well-made but depressing.
Little orphan Pip lives in the marshes with his blacksmith uncle (Shaun Dooley) and greedy aunt (Claire Rushbrook). He reckons he’ll be a blacksmith too when he grows up. One day he comes across an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch (Ray Winstone), and helps him – he’s too terrified not to – and thinks nothing more of it. Especially not since the lady from the big house, Miss Havisham (Gillian Anderson), wants him to come and play with her adopted daughter, Estella.
And Pip does. At first, the children are reluctant playmates, but they grow up and get educated together, and little Pip gets his hopes up about marrying Estella when he’s older.
When Pip (Douglas Booth) is older he gets a scholarship of sorts, to go to London and learn to be a gentleman. The benefactor wishes to remain anonymous, but this must be the work of Miss Havisham! And so Pip goes to the big city, learns how to be a toff, and tries hard to squander all his money, hoping to marry Estella (Vanessa Kirby) at the end of it.
Also starring Jack Roth as Dolge Orlick, David Suchet as Jaggers, Paul Rhys as Compeyson, Mark Addy as Pumblechook, Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket, Mary Roscoe as Hannah, and Susan Lynch as Molly.
I’ve had little exposure to Charles Dickens so far in my life, so this is the first time I’ve encountered Pip. Now I understand why a friend wanted him to be cannon fodder for a Jurisfiction roleplaying session. Snooty, deluded bastard! Definitely not a fan. Uncle Joe, yes, what a lovely man … but the rest are all a bunch of unpleasant oiks, one more horrible than the other. I mean, Orlick, what a charming fellow that was.
And Miss Haversham. Bit different from what she’s like in the BookWorld. Very ethereal and dream-like – and completely bonkers. LOVED seeing Gillian Anderson playing her. Probably the bits I looked forward to most in the subsequent episodes, to be honest.
There were only three episodes in total, but it seemed to get the job done. As I’ve not read the book, I can’t compare it to that, or even another adaptation. The shots were very bleak, almost devoid of colour at times. Which makes it look quite remarkable but doesn’t necessarily do anything but add atmosphere.
Story-wise, I wasn’t too keen on it, mostly because Pip was a complete dick about everything and everyone. But there you go. At least it’s another Dickens exposure under me belt. Not that it makes me terribly keen on reading the book, but never mind.
Stylish production, well acted and everything, just too bleak for my taste.
3 out of 5 cobwebs.