I watched my first Great Expectations film/T.V. adaption in its three hour entirety in one sitting about 1-2 months ago at home alone. I then immediately sat down and scribbled out a bunch of thoughts. Apparently watching a movie in its entirety on the T.V. by myself seems to inspire me to reflect on the film better than I would normally*; I did the same with next Great Expectations film, but the Nicholas Nickleby adventure didn’t quite work out so well as you will read in future.
Normally being watching a movie in snatches on my computer, watching a movie with my family and bouncing in and out and chattering regularly, or, more rarely, watching a film at the theatre and walking out dazzled brainless.
Actors/Actress I Recognized (Or Should Have)
Grown up Pip: Ioan Gruffudd (Despite the fact that we own Amazing Grace and my sister owns the Horatio Hornblower books, I had only previously seen him in The Secret of Moonacre).
Grown up Estella: Justine Waddell (I had seen her in Wives and Daughters).
Magwitch: Bernard Hill (Theoden, WHAT! I thought he was familiar, but not this).
~This film has several slight and not so slight changes from the book. I cannot recall the book fully, so I cannot explain the slight changes I more sensed than knew (as in rearrangements of the sequence of some of the details of the story). The changes seem to snowball in intensity somewhat, so I can explain some. Small changes add up to a different take from the novel on the story over all, and that is why some of these seemingly insignificant changes bother me (and that goes for any book to movie adaptation). Such is the case for all the slight changes regarding Estella’s part in the story.
~First Pip himself. He was an adorable child and a amazingly handsome man. I liked Pip’s accent switch from his native accent to the refined London one. Ioan Gruffud is both handsome and striking. I don’t know that Pip was plain in the book as all indications seems to point that Estella, had she been kind, would have considered him handsome enough to marry him. I don’t care how inaccurate his looks were, I loved them. However, as to accuracy with regards to Estella, he was far and above Justine Waddell’s Estella’s league, and she was already not pretty enough for Estella.
~Oh, Herbert. I have a sort of compulsive like/loyalty to acceptable main characters simply, I think, because they are main characters, so I do not know that I can honestly say that Herbert is my favorite, but he is truly the better man. The book did not feature him enough, and this film featured him even less. He was excellent both as boy and young man even if he was not Will Scarlet (and judging from Harry Lloyd’s acting as that darling personage, lovable though he is, I am going to pre-judge Lloyd’s Herbert and assume this 1999 Herbert is better in acting). Aaaannnd I was rather right I think.
*Eomer, Fred and George Weasley, all these characters I love in books who get slighted in the books sometimes and in the films!
~The film was too melodramatic. I don’t think that Magwitch smothered Pip, and I know Pip did not yell, “Nooooo!” at the discovery of the identity of his benefactor. That stayed in his head. The filmakers carried the creepiness into places it did not belong. Pip had too much of a temper. He yelled at Herbert and Wemmick and the latter instance rather spoiled the hilarious wedding scene of Wemmick’s.
~Some ommissions and quibbles. This film didn’t explain/show who Biddy was, she just appeared. Joe and Mrs. Joe had their coloring switched (coloring changes irritate me, don’t laugh at the triviality); besides that I thought the actor fairly decently portrayed Joe. The filmmakers rather took out the obnoxious but excellent Pumblechook scenes. The film portrayed Orlick as a creepy sneak rather than a brute sneak. He also appeared too smart. The actor for Jaggers did not make his character Jaggerish enough nor did the distinctions between the two Wemmicks show enough. And I think the movie could have done better with Wemmick’s house. The movie left out the awesome fireside showdown between Pip and Drummle. I know time constraints probably necessitated this. Even though the film was three hours, to give us perspective, Pride and Prejudice is five, and Pride and Prejudice is a much smaller book than Great Expectations.
The more serious issues.
All of these relate to the desire to obliterate the fact that some people are more evil (i.e. have less common grace) and more stupid than others. The filmmakers did this by both by raising the pathetic/horrible characters and lowering Pip and making him look like a fool (good grief, he was just a young man). Sorry peoples, we aren’t all equally intelligent and good even though fundamentally we are capable (key word please note) of the same evil and therefore have the same worth and the same possibility of worth in salvation (but still after that intelligence is not equalized). I hate this constant attempt to cut noble people down to fit mediocre and pathetic peoples’ sizes, in order that the mediocre and pathetic people don’t feel bad or have to change!
~I already mentioned Pip’s anger.
~Magwitch did not suspect Pip of feeling horror in the revelation scene in the novel, and I don’t think that the “real” Pip, after the beginning shock, would have shown it enough for Magwitch to tell (remember Magwitch was simpler, yes, some people really are less perceptive, believe it or not). In the film this detail and a few other words of Herbert and other slight things added up to make Pip look dishonorable in the Magwitch situation. In the novel even before Pip reached the point of pity and caring, he always intended to take the honorable course.
~I doubt the “real” Pip was on first name basis with Magwitch nor did he love Magwitch as a father, that is absurd. The man was much lower in breeding and intellect than Pip even aside from the issue of their short acquaintance. The book Pip loved Joe more than Magwitch because Joe raised him, and Pip still did not love Joe as he deserved.
~Pip fell ill and his creditors left him alone. In the movie the filmmakers put him in jail to lower him to the level of other criminals.
~Orlick let Pip go and then told him he was the better man for giving him mercy (no wondrous rescue, no Herbert?!). The sort of man who tried to kill a woman in a despicable, cowardly way and planned to then burn her body, would never have let Pip go. Even threats would not have compelled him, much less begging. And I don’t think the “real” Pip begged nor did he want to die. An already-essential-murderer in the attempt of another murder cannot gain anything of the upper hand by mercy to his innocent-of-crime intended victim! Everything Pip did against Orlick (and some of it Orlick made up) was right because Orlick did and was quite evil. The portrayal of this whole scene tried to make Pip no better than even murderous wretches!
~Pip waved a candle in Miss Havisham’s face and was unforgiving of Miss Havishsham at her funeral.
~Pip proposed to Biddy on her wedding day. Um no, just no. Give him some dignity.
The Estella changes. These I am not all certain about, but there are enough to put a different look on her part in the story.
~I don’t think Pip spoke of his love to Estella in the same setting in the book as he did in the movie. I cannot remember if he spoke to her of his love at all. I think he did.
~In the book he did not see her after her wedding. The acquaintance ended. Therefore he did not know of her abuse by sight (as in the film), and I don’t think he heard about it until later. So of course he could not tell Miss Havisham (as he did in the film). I don’t know how much he went on about her treatment of Estella in the book, but I think he took too long on this in the film. I doubt he still raged at Miss Havisham’s funeral.
~Pip was not discrete about Estella’s identity in the movie while he was in the book. It wasn’t his secret to tell (also her mother did not know her identity as they show she does in the movie).
~The ending. Hmm. It smacked of scandal, more than the book did anyway. This was Dickens novel, people. I shut off the stupid commentator right at his remark on ambiguity (I muted him in the beginning and middle too). The film also neither showed anyone else at the end nor showed the passage of a decade which also made the ending less plausible and more scandalous (as did her speaking to him of the separation and then their kiss).
Three hours is obviously a long time. My mom brought me once-but-no-longer-frozen yogurt which I put in the freezer. While I was talking to her I took it out to put my name on it and then put it back in the freezer. Then I realized what I had done: