The latest film of ‘Great Expectations’ is, you know, just fine

Helena Bonham Carter plays the dreaded Miss Havisham in "Great Expectations." Credit: Johann Persson
Helena Bonham Carter plays the dreaded Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations.”
Credit: Johann Persson

‘Great Expectations’
Director: Mike Newell
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) Globes

Unlike Shakespeare, Charles Dickens doesn’t get many flashy modern updates. His work is era- and location-specific: grimy England of the mid-19th century, where the chasm between the classes was epic and a sore on the eye. “Great Expectations” was dragged into the present for a phantasmagorically pretty (but brain-drained) version in 1998, directed by “Gravity”’s Alfonso Cuaron and starring Ethan Hawke at his most ‘90s mopey. But it belongs in the distant past, where the times and (especially) the language can truly flourish.

Of course, ask for a straight-up adaptation, and you get this new “Great Expectations,” which is perfectly acceptable, highly respectable and slightly dull (if never boring). The plot — in which young Pip (eventually played by strapping Jeremy Irvine) goes from grimy working class to idle gentleman in London, with the help of a secret benefactor — has been brutally condensed but hits all the necessary plot points and moves swiftly. The fine cast is headed by Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, the scary on-the-lam con with a secret. He’s excellent, as would happen if one cast Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch.

Of course, these aren’t actual problems for a picture to have. One of its few real issues would be Helena Bonham Carter. She’s long been more machine than woman, which may seem ideal for the twisted, mummy-like Miss Havisham, a character that traditionally coaxes the ham out of whoever plays her. But Carter is all spastic, OTT technique, no humanity, particularly when she’s supposed to finally reveal some. (Flashbacks to the day she was jilted at the altar are similarly misjudged.)

What is does get right, which Dickens adaptations often don’t, is its violently shifting tones. Dickens is hilarious and Dickens is brutal. Newell gets this, even moreso than the rightly celebrated 1940s adaptations by David Lean (including “Great Expectations”). This version isn’t exactly a laugh riot, but it does not sheathe the beautifully named Mr. Pumblechook (played by “Little Britain”’s David Walliams) from its running time. It’s occasionally bouncy, but then not afraid to roll around in the muck.

It still lacks a definitive reason for being — that said, outside of being an adaptation of a great by a great. The world can always stand to reminded, even for the ten thousandth time, of towering art, even from those that include a boring lead who seems to go through a trendy haircut every reel, one a mildly Victorian twist on Justin Bieber’s current ‘do. If it does anything more than remind you of another art work’s greatness is another story.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…