Sunday, February 23, 2014

Little Dorrit

This is a spoiler-free review.

Andrew Davies, adapter of many many classic period dramas writes yet another winning screenplay with only one little hiccup in the entire 8 hour run-time. I wish I could say I love how faithfully he adapted Charles Dickens' story -- and I'm thinking he probably did -- but since I haven't read it yet and can't critique any adapting choices, I can only say that the plot he wove was involving and interesting and flew by effortlessly, and was brimming with wonderfully complex and realistically flawed characters. Eight hours yet it never comes even close to tedious.

Ah -- those costumes! If I didn't know better I might think that's the only reason I like these sorts of movies.

But I mentioned a tiny hiccup.

There were seven and a half hours of pleasant, easy-going pacing, and then a rushed last half hour, resulting with very little anticlimax, and a few story lines left hanging. Since this happened at the end it is what stuck in my mind most, but is the only flaw I can remember noticing, and it's a relatively small one, and a relatively common one as well. It hindered my enjoyment only in the tiniest degree, and with a second viewing, I doubt it'll hinder at all, but an extra half-hour of run-time or some better time management wouldn't have gone amiss.

Also, it's partly my own fault, but the mystery's reveal took some work to understand. I usually pride myself on being able to understand those wordy sentences and accents, but this plot was so easy to follow at first I wasn't expecting to have to concentrate, and the result was more than a moment's confusion near the end. The scene probably could have been written more clearly, but it is something that will disappear completely upon a second view, so it's hardly a problem.

I even like the men's costumes.

The filming style felt perfectly like Dickens, with the gorgeous, dark and gritty look, and an ominous, mysterious undertone. I loved how the camera would roll to subtle angles sometimes, amplifying some of the more uncomfortable and creepier scenes. The writing and filming styles were very complementary together, giving out silent, intriguing hints to the plot and characters.

Our heroine and title character is little Amy Dorrit, played by Claire Foy. I have never seen or even heard of Foy before, and it made her embodiment of the character even more complete. She made an ideal main character for the story -- perfectly sweet, kind and gentle, but produced spirit and determination when she needed. Like a Disney Princess of Dickens' world.

And very pretty too.

You may know that I do not at all like Matthew Macfadyen's version of Mr. Darcy in the '05 Pride & Prejudice. I have, however, always disliked it to his credit, assuming that he is such a talented actor that the dull, unsavory performance was only exactly what the director wanted it to be, and that he had obliged him. I hold that opinion even more firmly after seeing his delightful performance as Mr. Clennam -- a worthy actor for a worthy hero.

I still don't think he's Mr. Darcy material, but does he need to be? Absolutely not!

In stark contrast to Amy is the rest of her family. Her father William Dorrit (Tom Courtenay) is a sad older man, more than a little touched in the head, and annoyingly pompous in spite of his situation, but besides his stupid ideas he's a mostly kind and loving father. Her sister Fanny (Emma Pierson) is stuck-up, affected and selfish, and wears the perfect makeup to match her personality -- it's awful, but I love it, and in the one scene when it's off, she seems actually human and I liked her. And Amy's brother, equal to Fanny in selfishness, plus rude and lazy to boot is Edward, played awesomely by Arthur Darvill, and is the complete opposite of Rory -- no noticeable redeeming qualities.

"Rory and the china doll."

Now the villain, Andy Serkis. Whoah-ho-ho, Andy Serkis! He's no stranger to villainous characters, but this one is uniquely impressive, firstly because it's not a motion capture job, (ha) and seriously because this villain has such a slithery dramatic flair. Rotten to the core, and a Frenchman too -- Serkis' looks are perfect, as is his accent, and the creepy factor is off the scale. It bothers me that he is often type-cast as the villain (my family can't even recall his non-sinister roles) but it doesn't help his case when he's this good.

Voila, bad guy.
This was quite the show for a game of "Name That British Actor." I gleefully recognized too many more faces to even mention them all, but they most interestingly include:

Russell Tovey -- of Sherlock and Doctor Who, and from which I could tell he's a likably intense actor, but I was still impressed with his performance of poor love-struck John. I recognized supporting man Eddie Marsan first as Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes (you may recognize his from many other assorted films) but henceforth I'll be remembering him as Mr. Pancks, because as Pancks he finally stood out, and demanded attention. Still technically a supporting character, but a memorable, finely tuned one. Freema Agyeman (yet another from Doctor Who) was a little too odd and annoying with her character; and Anton Lesser was of course, very, very good.

I'd know those ears anywhere -- Russell Tovey.

I wonder why it took me six years to finally get around to watching this fantastic "little" gem.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a certain, rather thick book sitting next to me that is long overdue in its wait for someone to begin reading it.


  1. Wow, I had no idea so many people I rather enjoy watching were in this! Annnnnnnnnnnnd I can watch it for free on Amazon Prime. Now to find the time!

    1. Yeah the 8 hour length was a definite factor in how long it took us to get around to watching it, but it didn't turn out to be a problem because they are segmented into 14 episodes of a half an hour each, (except the first and last are an hour) so it was more like watching a tv show than a movie with the convenient stopping points!. :D