Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challege - Day 19 - LITTLE DORRIT (1988)

- Rated G but would probably be rated PG today for someone saying "ass" and some thematic elements.
- Starring Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness, Sarah Pickering, Miriam Margoyles, Roshan Seth
- Written for the screen & Directed by Christine Edzard (Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
- Running time: 5hrs 58min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!) 

Based off of Dickens' classic novel,  this 6 hour movie was released theatrically in 2 parts that were 3 hours a piece. The first part focuses on Arthur Clennam (Jacobi) who returns to 19th Century London after spending 20 years in China working for his father.  He tries to reconnect with his mother, who is paralyzed, but she keeps him at a distance.  He meets a servant girl working for his mother named Amy Dorrit (but everyone seems to call her Little Dorrit).  Amy lives in a part of town where the poor are condemned with her father William (Guinness).  Arthur grows fond of the Dorrits and tries to help them in anyway.  Eventually, Arthur discovers that William actually has an unclaimed fortune passed down from a relative.  This event changes everything.  The second half is through the eyes of Amy, starting with her childhood up until she is a bit older, and even showing several sequences from the first part from a different perspective. 

This approach is actually a good idea... BUT..... 6 HOURS LONG!!!!!!!   I'd be lying if I said this wasn't an endurance test.  Whew!  It took a lot out of me.   This is one of those stiff and dry period dramas that give the genre a bad name.  Lots of mainstream moviegoers would consider watching a costume drama boring, and this is. 

Now, that doesn't mean that there isn't anything good in here.  The acting is mostly good all around.  Jacobi is pretty stuffy, but it fits the character.  Alec Guinness was nominated for an Oscar for his work as a poor man who changes when he becomes rich, and he's quite good, if not Oscar worthy.  Sarah Pickering as Amy makes a lasting impression, and is one of the best things about the movie.  My favorite performance belongs to Miriam Margoyles as Arthur's ex-fiancee.  Her performance is full of energy that gives the movie a much needed kick in the pants from time to time.  But Roshan Seth is so painfully artificial as Arthur's financial advisor that he became extremely irritating.  In fact, they probably could have just cut him out of the movie.

Speaking of which, this movie would have been so much better if writer/director Christine Edzard cut at least half the movie out.  There is nothing on screen that warrants for such a long running time.  Even though it was a clever idea to show certain scenes from a different perspective, it didn't really add a whole lot.  They should have just combined the stories, which would have made it more emotionally compelling in my opinion.  There were countless scenes that I thought could have been left on the cutting room floor.  But instead we're left with TOO much character development.  Also, there were way too many characters.  So many that I found myself having a tough time keeping up with all of them.  I got lost a few times in the story, which affected the way I felt about it. 

The sets were also a problem.  It looked like they were built on a soundstage (which they were).  It has this really weird fake look that made it hard for me to get into the movie.  Edzard's direction is bland and boring just like the story, so I guess it fits, but this needed a filmmaker with visual flare.  Instead this movie just comes across like a dull Masterpiece Theater mini-series. 

*1/2 (out of ****)

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