41 thoughts on “Great Expectations (2023) Is Not So Great

  1. I’m… checks watch five episodes in and it’s so BORING. I enjoy and own several adaptations of this (the best one is the two hour version with Holiday Granger) and none of them drag the way this one does. Adding opium dens, brothels, and f-words doesn’t make it edgy, it just pads an already bloated running time. Also, Estella wearing crappy filthy clothes makes no sense, since Miss H is preoccupied with making her into a beautiful woman who will break men’s hearts. (Wearing trash? Okay.)

    1. I’ve enjoyed a few adaptations. I thought David Lean’s 1946 version was the best shot. I liked parts of the modernized 1998 version though it ended up missing the mark (Alfonso Cuarón’s other work is far better).

      I haven’t seen the 2012 version with Holiday Granger though. The costumes and hair for the leads look a bit post-modern for my taste but otherwise it’s recommended?

      1. I think the 2012 version does a good job of condensing the plot but keeping the important parts, and the acting is very good, yes.

      2. I just saw the David Lean adaptation. The photography is beautiful. As for the narrative . . . eh. It hit some beats and missed others. There has to be a better adaptation that the 1946 movie.

  2. I’m a huge fan of Dickens’s works, and from my perspective – it was awful. Great Expectations starts with one of the most cinematic scenes in all literature – with the as-yet unnamed convict bursting out of nowhere, grabbing Pip, turning him upside down to shake out his pockets, and demanding food.
    In this version we were subjected to a full introduction to Magwitch, and his feud with Compeyson, and the riot. A great beginning ruined.
    Then it went on to all the opium stuff. If they’d wanted to talk about the Victorian opium trade, maybe try another of his books instead. It was discussed in at least two. The writer of this dismal version said that Dickens couldn’t talk about it in his day. Wrong. It doesn’t fit Miss Havisham, and takes drama away from her deeper, psychological problems. “Oh, it was the opium” just doesn’t work.
    Pip was depicted at the start as being an avid reader, especially of Shakespeare. The Pip of the book is barely literate.
    As you said, the clothes are all over the place. Just no.

    1. If it were Miss Havisham ordering from the tailors that’s not exactly unlikely (In liquor or out, Miss Havisham is NOT if sober judgement): one would, however, expect Miss Estella to rationalise her appearance after becoming a married lady (and out from under Miss Havisham, though alas! In the power of a husband not likely to make a happy marriage).

  3. I’m always suspicious of “gritty” remakes. Dickens could do gritty when he wanted, but he also included humor and love in his stories. Joe Gargery, one of the best characters for sheer decency has been downgraded as a character so much in this series that the meaning of the story has been distorted- just to take one instance of the distortions perpetrated by the production. And Estella is dressed in such ratty clothes! Miss Havisham is rich! She could and did afford to dress Estella beautifully to create a creature who would punish men! More distortions!

    1. These are the same guys that did a version of A Christmas Carol that included young Ebenezer being sexually abused by his schoolmaster (with his father’s consent) until his sister came and pulled a gun on said schoolmaster, had Scrooge sexually blackmail Mrs. Cratchit for Tim’s sake (he didn’t go through with it, but wanted to prove a point that anyone would transgress if the stakes were high enough), had several f-bombs, didn’t have Fezziwig as an example of what a good employer should be, strongly implied Mrs. Cratchit to be a literal witch who raised the spirits, and took out all sense of joy from the ending (no warmth between Scrooge and the Cratchits, no following Scrooge into the future to see the kind of man he became, no reconciliation with Fred onscreen). I mean, it’s not as though there wasn’t darkness in the original story, but really good adaptations (like Sim’s and Scott’s) develop that instead of just piling on lots of grimdarkness that wasn’t there in the first place because Game of Thrones is popular and grimdarkness is in. And they balance it off, as you said, with warmth and joy. It looks as though this adaptation of Great Expectations has done much the same thing.

  4. I made it through all six episodes because I had to, for my blog about Dickens. If not for that, I’d probably given up in the first ten minutes. It really was horrible. Appreciate your take on the costumes — they were terribly unflattering, and your analysis helps me understand why, since I’m not very knowledgable about fashion myself!

  5. cries. Please can we STOP having these awful “reboots” and visuals to be “relevant” to a modern audience (and isn’t that patronising, snobbish and condescending anyway?).

    I’ve given up bothering with any periodesque production created in the past 10 years or so as they are all utterly rubbish (Downton Abbey and some Queen Victoria depictions not withstanding).

    Just awful on all levels.

    Thank goodness for Frock Flicks.

    1. Right there with you, although I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed Rosaline with Kaitlyn Dever. It was full of anachronisms, but leaned into them. Don’t know if you ever watched Hercules or Xena, Warrior Princess. It had the same kind of goofy sensibility. :)

      1. Oh, Boxermom, I was rolling with Rosaline until Romeo said, “My bad.” That one line just set me off!!

  6. The actress playing Estella should sue. Surely making a beautiful woman look hideous is a crime? I can see that decently costumed she’d be very attractive but she looks sick with chagrin in these horrors.

  7. I agree with everyone else that introducing opium is such an odd choice for this novel (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, meanwhile, literally features an opium addict as a character, and is moreover one of his bleakest books in tone, why not adapt that one if you want to address the tragedy and destruction caused by the opium trade?). And dressing the very pretty actress who plays Estella here in clothes that would be better suited to a Tim Burton character (if they were better-made!) does constitute a crime, in my opinion. Though it’s true that it’s always nice to see Matt Berry!

    1. Estella apparently has also been deprived of comb, brush and hairpins. Doesn’t that qualify as abuse?

  8. I have no interest in slogging through this mess! You’re a braver woman than I for sitting through this!

  9. Wow. These clothes are tragic. I was looking forward to this, but I think I’m doing a 180.

    1. It was mostly dreadful, except for all the scenes with Mr. Jaggers. Not sure the character was written to havr been so fucking HOT, but it really worked here, just saying.

      1. Ashley Thomas was tremendous as Jaggers. I really wished he’d had a better adaptation to star in. I cringed for the poor guy when he had to utter melodramatic tripe like “Because I am known to be evil!”

    2. If you’re looking for an adaptation with a “darker” tone, I love the 2010-2011 miniseries with Douglas Booth, Vanessa Kirby, and Gillian Anderson.

  10. The episodes were written by Steven Knight, who also adapted the “What if Scrooge was sexy” Guy Pearce in “A Christmas Carol” a few years ago. I guess he’s going for a Dark Dickens Prestige TV universe. Stay tuned for “Bleaker House,” “Harder Times,” “Oliver Twist: Maximum Orphanage,” and “Nicholas Fuckelby.”

    1. I just had to tell you that you gave me a great laugh with those titles (watch them come true!)🤣

  11. Oh, dear! I haven’t seen this one yet, and now I don’t know if I will. It had vaguely been on my radar because well, Olivia Coleman and Dickens…but, Lord, these costumes are sooo ugly and, as you say, NONSENSICAL!! This post had me pop over to IMDB to confirm that I’d seen the actress Shalome Brune-Franklin before in the Netflix version of Cursed–an Arthurian tale with Nimue as the main character. She is very pretty and a good actress, and I remember wishing then that she’d scored a better role in a better Arthurian tale. Looks like she didn’t fare any better in this Dickens adaptation.

    On a different note, I laughed when I read this line: “The poorer characters wear generically Victorian stuff,” because that’s what I would write if this were my blog!! After so many years of reading this blog, I feel like I should have a better working vocabulary, but alas, “generically Victorian stuff” would be all I could muster. That’s why I keep coming here–for your expertise!! I’m still undecided about whether to try to watch this. I mean…maybe for snarking purposes??

  12. I love reading Dickens, not least because he is a master of language and characterisation. Have also very much enjoyed many adaptations of his novels, including the recent ‘David Copperfield’. However, this ‘Great Expectations’ was a complete travesty, the worst ‘adaptation’ of any Dickens novel I have yet seen. I wonder how many of the actors realised what they had signed up to and how many later wished they had not. Steven Knight may be a talent, but he certainly hid it well here. Why not just write his own Victorian tale, rather than hang onto Dickens’ coattails.

    1. Totally agree. What a waste of a fine cast. The only thing Knight took from the book is the naming – and even then, he got Pip’s surname wrong. (It’s only mentioned in the first sentence of the book, FFS…)

      1. And Pip’s sister’s first name wrong. Her name was Georgiana (after her mother, as Pumblechook tells us).

        1. Every single bit of it wrong, including the total absence of Orlick. Not to mention any of the funny bits. Why pretend any of this had anything to do with the book?

  13. Yup. Agree with all of the above. Didn’t make it through more than the first episode (and I think I slept through most of that).

  14. I intensely dislike this book. I failed 3rd quarter English because I read the book immediately after it was assigned and literally couldn’t be bothered to write a paper about it six weeks later. So I got a big fat F for the quarter. No regrets. And nothing about this film makes me want to revisit it. It’s too over the top.

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions. Also, thank you for taking one for the team so we/I didn’t have to. I sincerely appreciate it. 🌸

  15. I’m grimly watching to the end, because I’ve started, so I’ll finish. Just don’t blame Dickens for this farrago. As an escaped English teacher I know the book quite well, and any resemblance it has to this thing vanished within minutes. If he wanted to write a weird Victorian tale about opium, slavery and the Empire, why not just invent his own characters instead of nicking the names but precious little else from the book? My husband keeps asking me questions as we watch it – or, did, but he’s got tired of “Nope, this bit isn’t in the book either.”

    Olivia Colman chews the scenery beautifully, but even she can’t save this mess. The costumes are bizarre approximations, there’s no sense of history, and all the key moments have been abandoned. Of course there’s no humour, even in the bits specifically written to be funny. (Mr Wemmick’s home, for example.)

    I have literally NO IDEA how this story will end, because every bit so far has been warped. And it’s not even pretty to look at.

    I’m a Dickens fan (sorry, Trystan) and I think they should hitch up a turbine power generator to his grave, he must be turning over in it so fast!

    Also, Pip GARGERY? WTF? This is the most WTF of WTFery I’ve seen sing Reign, and that is saying a lot.

    1. “If he wanted to write a weird Victorian tale about opium, slavery and the Empire, why not just invent his own characters instead of nicking the names but precious little else from the book?” Well, and now I definitely won’t watch it. I had a very similar similar objection to the Anne with an E Netflix series. Not everything needs a gritty remake, or to be remade to fit the aims of a person who had no role in the original. Just, you know, take inspiration, change more, and do your own thing. It seems wrong to want to get the benefit of books’ goodwill while changing so many elements as to not really be the same story anymore.

  16. I was wondering how you felt about the dyeing and distressing? I thought it was wonderful and elevated the costume to art. I also thought the costumes of the lower classes were really well hashed out. Perfect layering of texture and contrast. Also thought the layering of pattern and color was super elevated in all the menswear. Directors don’t really like to see this period on the screen so I like the idea elevating the costume to surreal, nightmare, fantasy kind of worked.

  17. I didn’t think I would enjoy this series. To my surprise, I’m enjoying it very much. Rather dark and gloomy – a great setting about ambition and capitalism.

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