Film fans and stars took to the red carpet on Sunday 21st October for the BFI’s glittering closing gala at London’s Odeon Leicester Square featuring the European Premiere of Great Expectations.
With a stellar cast showcasing Britain’s next generation of acting royalty, this home grown remake of the Dickens classic was a fitting conclusion to the London Film Festival 2012. David Lean’s 1946 version, starring John Mills, is viewed by some as one of the most perfect films ever made and there have been numerous TV and film adaptions since. The challenge for any director taking on the costume drama was therefore to bring something new and fresh to the Big Screen. Director Michael Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), however, draws on the rich tones and production values we see in Potter, reuniting some of the franchise’s stars Helena Bonham Carter (Miss Haversham), Ralph Fiennes (Magwitch) and Robbie Coltrane (Jaggers). This production style, combined with strong comedic performances from a supporting cast, including the superbly Pumblechookian David Walliams, delivers a movie that encapsulates the very best of Dickensian characterisation and spirit in a real, but raw environs. Jason Flemyng is likeable as the kind, but modest blacksmith Joe Gargery, who reminds Pip of his lowly origins as his city life of a gentleman distances him from those who brought him up.
The film also sees touching performances from its younger cast including Charlie Callaghan as the warmly pugnacious young Herbert Pocket, who steals the biggest laugh in the movie. Jeremy Irvine returns after his success in Warhorse as a brooding Pip, painfully in love with the exquisitely cold Estella played stunningly by Holliday Grainger (Bel Ami).
Newell has avoided the stereotype dark misty atmosphere directors have often chosen for the Kent marsh scenes between the young Pip and escaped convict Magwitch, choosing instead a more natural and optimistic lighting. This contrasts with the dirty, dark streets of London, flowing with blood and open flesh from street butchers that Pip encounters when he moves to London to become a gentleman at the hands of his mysterious Generous Benefactor, as well as the gruesome fire scene that engulfs Miss Haversham with flames at the end of the film.
As Miss Haversham, Helena Bonham Carter comes forward as a new grande dame of British cinema, playing the damaged and eccentric aging bride, jilted on her wedding day. “I like sick people and she’s really sick,” she told UBC Entertainment News on the red carpet before Sunday’s premiere. “I mean psychologically barking. Not everyone who gets jilted remains in their wedding dress for the rest of their life and tries to freeze time.”
Great Expectations is a solid adaption of a much loved British literature classic that releases on 30th November. With such strong acting talent and a faithful take on the story, we think that the movie will appeal to an upscale AB1 and female audience.