Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Great Expectations (1998)

Who's in it?: Ethan Hawke (In a Valley of Violence, The Magnificent Seven, The Kid), Gwyneth Paltrow (Se7en, Emma, Iron Man), Anne Bancroft (Treasure of the Golden Condor, The Graduate, Honeymoon in Vegas), Robert De Niro (The Untouchables, Midnight Run, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), Chris Cooper (Lonesome Dove, The Bourne Identity, The Muppets), and Hank Azaria (The SimpsonsFriendsMystery Men)

What's it about?: An adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel about the life of an orphan, but set in contemporary times.

How is it?: Emmanuel Lubezki's photography is a highlight as usual. He's won enough Oscars to make that an understatement, but Alfonso Cuarón (who directed this, which is why I'm watching it again) was an early collaborator with Lubezki. In Great Expectations, Cuarón brilliantly communicates the sensuality of Finn (Pip in the book) and Estella's relationship through camera placement, focus, scene blocking, and pretty much every other tool in his kit except dialogue and gratuitous nudity, which are what less talented directors have to rely on.

What keeps it from being a favorite film of mine is the story itself. I've never read Dickens' novel, so I don't know who to blame, but I get tired of Dinsmoor and Estella's shenanigans way before Finn does, meaning that I also get impatient with his continued submission to their cruelty. Cuarón is so good at including me in Estella's seduction of Finn that I feel why it would be tough for Finn to move on, but I really want him to and though SPOILER his patience ultimately pays off, I'm not satisfied that the reward is worth the lifetime of suffering.

I could be thinking about it wrong by phrasing it in terms of reward for Finn, but Estella isn't a complete enough character for me to see her point of view clearly. There's a great scene where she talks about Dinsmoor's training and what that's done to her, but it's not enough. I want more of that.

Rating: Three out of five seductive socialites.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

It might be fun to create a top ten list of contemporary re-adaptations like this. I can understand and appreciate a period piece academicly but a setting update can help me appreciate it more emotionally when it's presented in more familiar packaging.

I'd heard of this one but did not know Curon was involved, that too makes me interested. Well that and the gratuitous nudity as well.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

One more reason for me to be interested. Wikipedia lists Ron Wasserman as co-composer for the music. Now I can't wait to see a modern adaptation of Charles Dickens with music by the guy who wrote the theme song to "Power Rangers"!

Michael May said...

I should clarify that there's not any gratuitous nudity in Great Expectations. I didn't word that very well in my review, but while there a naked people in the movie, Cuaron makes much more of what you don't see than what you do.


Related Posts with Thumbnails