Adaptations of old classics in modern times are usually a hit or a miss. While Romeo and Juliet remakes rarely make an impact anymore, Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women‘ adapted by Greta Gerwig was highly appreciated by audiences. The recent adaptation to make it to the big screen is Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield‘, adapted by Armando Iannucci titled The Personal History of David Copperfield. With a somewhat modern and whimsical twist, this comedy-drama fits into the classic theme of an Iannuci piece of work. The filmmaker previously known for The Death of Stalin and TV series like The Thick of It (remade in the US as the award-winning comedy ‘Veep‘) – makes a clever commentary on aristocratic snobbery while casting actors from different racial and regional backgrounds even though the characters in the book are predominantly white.
In the titular character, there’s the dashing Dev Patel, who in his childhood is sent away by his cruel step-father Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd) to work in his factory, while lodging with the heavily indebted Micawbers (Peter Capaldi and Bronagh Gallagher). After a brief rebellion, David escapes to find his wealthy aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton) who lives with the eccentric Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). Later, David is sent to a proper school where he meets James Steerforth (Aneurin Barnard) and Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw), who make quite the impact on his future. Ianucci’s film chronicles Copperfield’s life from childhood to maturity, along with the many adventures Dickens described so colorfully in his novel.
An extraordinary cast led by the charming Dev Patel
Race or country of origin is irrelevant in this fantasy world of David Copperfield. We have the Indian origin actor Dev Patel take on the titular character, while his mother and aunt are white. This does not harm the authenticity of the story as the actors do a fantastic job in their respective roles. Dev Patel brings his own boyish charm into the classic character, his eyes full of wonder and hope, despite the horrid events in his childhood. Other notable characters include the Micawbers where Peter Capaldi and Bronagh Gallagher bring in the laughs with their silly acts, the strict but sweet Betsey Trotwood who is perfectly portrayed by Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie’s Mr. Dick who deserves a movie of his own. Even Ben Whishaw is excellent as the creepy Uriah Heep, perfectly capturing the perversity of his character.
Gets funnier with the classic Iannucci touch
If you are acquainted with Armando Iannucci’s work, you will be expecting this movie to be funny, witty, and clever. The Personal History of David Copperfield does not disappoint in this regard. Through its whimsical story-telling, the film gives us an insight into the silliness of people across economic and social classes, while deftly making a commentary on aristocratic snobbery. Ultimately, the film celebrates its own absurdity while leaving you feeling good and entertained.
Eyes on the prize!
With the awards season soon approaching, The Personal History of David Copperfield could very well be picking up numerous nominations for its cast, writing, costumes, and set design. It has already bagged the British Independent Film Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Laurie), Best Screenplay (Armando Ianucci & Simon Blackwell), Best Casting (Sarah Crowe), Best Costume Design (Suzie Harman & Robert Worley), and Best Production Design (Cristina Casali), while earning several other nominations. This one’s certainly award-worthy!
WATCH OR NOT:
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the reopening of cinemas is receiving great responses from audiences. The Personal History of David Copperfield already holds a high approval rating among audiences abroad, so if you are eager to know what the hype is about, book your tickets for this film right away. From the writing to the performances, you will be left thoroughly impressed. Fans of the book or Armando Iannucci must definitely not miss this one!