Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Great Expectations


If I had to pick a favorite Dickens novel it would probably be David Copperfield, but this one is a close second. And I don’t really see the need to create a modern-day version of it when we have a perfect example already in David Lean’s 1946 version, starring John Mills and a very young Alec Guinness. I don’t mind too much that they excised several plot elements, as the novel is complex and has the kind of coincidences Dickens is famous for. But I didn’t think Ethan Hawke made a very good Pip (named Finn here) and I resented that Miss Havisham (Ms. Dinsmore here, and played well by Anne Bancroft) didn’t catch fire. Gwyneth Paltrow makes a suitably cold and beautiful Estella. I sure wish she wasn’t such a nasty dipshit.

They also missed an opportunity by not showing the remains of the long-ago bridal dinner in Havisham’s mansion, as we did in Lean’s version. I thought that was a striking metaphor for her insanity, better than Dinsmore’s dancing obsession. There is a brief shot of tables set for a banquet in the overgrown garden. The exterior of the mansion was shot at Ca’ dZan, where circus man John Ringling and his wife used to winter. It’s now a museum, and recently the site of the new-format outdoor Antiques Roadshow, where we learned a bit about it.