Sunday, 11 March 2012

Great Expectations Dashed

I'm a huge fan of Charles Dickens and I was very excited to hear that the BBC had made a new adaptation of Great Expectations (I love this book so much I actually refer to it several times in my new novel Pleasure Island). When I saw the previews my hopes were raised even higher. There's no denying it looks fantastic. The first scenes when Pip meets Magwich and then returns to his poverty stricken hut on the edge of the marshes only added to my expectations, and then it all came to a grinding halt.

Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham? Give me a break. The woman is 43 years old, and looks even younger. White wigs and make-up cannot hide this fact. Miss Havisham is supposed to be a dried-up, bitter old hag.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Gillian Anderson's, and I especially loved her in the House of Mirth, but she is not right for this role. She looks ethereal rather than decaying, and her sing song voice only adds to this impression. Here's an article on the subject which shows images of previous Miss Havishams, who were much closer to Dicken's portrayal.

What were the BBC thinking casting Andereson? There must be so many older actresses out there who would have given their eye teeth for a meaty role like this. Is this another example of our youth-obsessed culture where even a character like Miss Havisham must be attractive?

Miss Havisham's role was unfortunately not the only one that was miscast. At the other end of the scale Vanessa Kirby looks too old to be Pip's love interest. She is another fine actress, and I know she's meant to be older than Pip in the book. In reality she's only five years older than him, but she just isn't right for the role of Estella.

These problems with casting mar what is otherwise a very fine production. I'd still recommend it, just don't allow your expectations to become too great.

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  1. Hey Francene,
    I absolutely loved "Great Expectations" growing up. In high school, it was one of the first novels my librarian picked out for me to try. Yes, I was one of those nerds who spend most of her lunch time in the library LOL. She introduced me to the classics like "Tale of Two Cities", "Oliver Twist", etc.

    That's why I was so excited when the movie came out with Ethan Hawke and Gweneth Paltrow. Hopefully, this new TV series will live up to the hype.

    Keep smiling,

    P.S. Yea, you started a blog!

  2. Thanks Yawatta! There's nothing wrong with being a lunch time library nerd - one day I'm convinced it will be the height of coolness to hang out in the library and read Dickens. Oliver Twist was the first of his books that I read and fell in love with, and every book I've read of his since just seems to get better.