Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Director Armando Iannucci's The Personal History of David Copperfield is a light and breezy affair filled with familiar faces like Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie. and Hugh Laurie. The film takes a more theatrical stage view than Hollywood approach to casting the project, ignoring any racial overtones and simply casting the best actor available for any particular role (such as throwing together Benedict Wong and Rosalind Eleazar as father and daughter). While initially appearing odd on-screen, the color-blind approach turns out to be quite freeing to both the film and its actors.

Dev Patel stars as Charles Dickens's David Copperfield (from the novel of the same name). We're introduced to young David (Jairaj Varsani) who is yanked from his idyllic childhood to London after his widowed mother (Morfydd Clark) marries the villainous Murdstone (Darren Boyd). The dastardly devil is only missing a moustache to twirl to make his effect complete. Putting David to work in one of his factories, that is where he remains until his mother's death when he escapes and strives to find a new life for himself as a gentleman.

Although you can feel the film striving to be something akin to Shakespeare in Love, the script by Simon Blackwell and Iannucci lacks the biting wit and passion of John Madden's film. The result is a mostly inoffensive film with something to appeal to the whole family but lacking the consistent spark that would allow it to become something more. Despite an ebb and flow, the film never completely lost my interest (although I can't say it every truly captured my imagination either).

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