Many years later, Pip comes into a mysterious fortune – the ‘great expectations’ of the title – and goes off to become a gentleman in London. He fritters away his cash without thought or plan, dragging others down with him and losing sight of the places and the people he came from. The eventual revealment of his mysterious benefactor and the resolution of the convoluted relationships breaks down what little Pip thought he knew of the world, but he finds a sort of redemption through the forgiveness of others.
This latest adaptation is a BBC production with the accompanying top-level British acting talent to match. Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch the convict, Helena Bonham Carter as the disappointed and vindictive Miss Haversham fits like a glove and Robbie Coltrane as the entangled and conniving solicitor Jaggers are the leads to the smattering of familiar faces that make up the cast.
As with any adaptation of classic, lengthy literature, a lot of the plot is left out or compounded. Personally, I think that in the case of Great Expectations this can only improve what was an unnecessarily drawn-out novel, issued as it was by Dickens as chapter-length installments in a magazine he wrote and published. A movie is a cut-to-the-bone version of the story and for me, this makes the interminable morbidity and accent-indulgent works of Dickens vastly improved.
Along with cutting down, the movie-makers have taken great liberties with the plot, speeding up the action and doling out endings as they see fit. I understand that changes need to be made to transform a book into a film, but in this case certain lines of literary decency were definitely crossed. If I were a Dickens admirer I would likely be horrified, as I am at overly spliced adaptations of Jane Austin.
As with almost all recent period pieces, the look of the film is stunning. The moors Pip is raised on are bleak and beautiful. Satis House and the great decaying wedding feast are a picture of despair, London is as dank and disease-ridden in which amongst the desperate and hateful characters, Pip's delightful friend Hubert Pocket (Olly Alexander) shines. He is one the few light, friendly characters in what is the usual Dickens dramatis personae of oily money money-grubbers, child-beaters and blackguards.
The decayed grandeur of Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham-Carter).