Monday, July 14, 2008

Bleak House

Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Gillian Anderson, Carey Mulligan and Patrick Kennedy
Directed by: Justin Chadwick & Susanna White
Fourteen 30-minute episodes

It’s hard to write a summary of this movie because it’s about many things. But it centers (for the most part) on Esther Summerson, who is has recently been taken into the care of Mr. John Jarndyce, to be a companion to his ward, Ada Clare. Mr. Jarndyce’s family is at the bottom of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce law suit, which has been unresolved for years and years and has driven several people mad. Also in the movie there is the beautiful and mysterious Lady Dedlock, who has something to do with Esther’s unknown past – and who lives in fear that her magnanimous secret will be sniffed out by Mr. Tulkinghorn, a somewhat predatory lawyer. Throughout the movie, Esther remains calm and kind, even when she catches a terrible illness and is near death. But problems arise of many different kinds: Richard, Mr. Jarndyce’s other ward, is interested in the Jarndyce suit and becomes more and more obsessed with “putting his shoulder to the wheel” and getting it settled. And Ada, who is an innocent and sweet girl, blindly puts her faith in the man she loves. As for Esther’s own happiness, there are things she has no control over tugging at her fate – but she also has to decide for herself.

I was very impressed by this adaptation of Dickens’s novel. The random crashing sound effects at the start of some scenes was a little odd – sort of like they were trying to make it too dark – but after a few episodes I got used to it and barely noticed anymore. The cast was incredible, especially Burn Gorman as Guppy (there could be no one else so perfect in the role) and Denis Lawson as Mr. Jarndyce. My main disappointments were Mr. Smallweed and Mr. Vholes; neither of them were much like in the book. But a lot of the lines I recognized as being straight from Bleak House, which was a definite point in Andrew Davies’s favor. All in all, I found this to be a delightful movie which didn’t exactly follow the book but was a darn good adaptation. Those who haven’t read it would probably like the film just as much as those who have.

My first review (but not my first book) for Becky’s Charles Dickens Mini-Challenge 08.