Great Expectations (12A, 128 mins) Drama/Romance Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Flemyng, Ewen Bremner, Robbie Coltrane, Sally Hawkins, Olly Alexander, David Walliams, Tamzin Outhwaite Director: Mike Newell Released: Friday November 30
Expectations were certainly great when Mike Newell announced this lavish retelling of Dickens to coincide with the bicentenary of the writer’s birth.
David Nicholls, author of Starter For Ten and One Day, had penned the script and some of the brightest stars of the British acting firmament were confirmed as the book’s memorable protagonists.
Confirming all of the promise, Great Expectations was chosen as the coveted closing night gala of last month’s BFI London Film Festival. Alas, as the characters in Nicholls’s screenplay learn to their cost, life is full of disappointments and Newell’s film has a fair few.
Arriving less than a year after the BBC’s well-crafted three-part adaptation - a centrepiece of the channel’s Christmas schedule – Great Expectations is both sluggish and slavish.
Crucially, the film fails to outshine David Lean’s seminal 1946 version, even with John Mathieson’s magnificent cinematography and Jason Flemyng’s endearing portrayal of honest blacksmith Joe Gargery.
Great Expectations is a handsome rendering of the novel but there is little in Nicholls’s screenplay that we haven’t seen before.
Richard Hartley’s soundtrack swoons in all the right places but only faintly strums our heartstrings.
Irvine is an appealing leading man and David Walliams offers fleeting comic relief as Uncle Pumblechook, but Bonham Carter’s anaemic portrayal of eternal bride Miss Havisham is emblematic of a film covered in the cobwebs of previous adaptations.
Neither the best of times, nor the worst of times, Newell’s vision is something in between.
n No Swearing, No Sex, Violence n Rating: 6/10