The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Charles Dickens 1850 novel of David Copperfield has been remade multiple times but never quite like this comedy-drama film written with co-writer Simon Blackwell and directed by Armando Iannucci. This lighthearted take on the classic tale brings a fresh and color blind approach to the larger than life characters and the interpretation of Copperfield trials of growing up. Although there are a few missing elements of the story, most important points are retained as the ensemble of Copperfield's supporters run wild feeding his imagination.

Jairaj Varsani plays young David who is brought up with love from his widowed mother Clara (Morfydd Clark) and the housekeeper/nanny Peggoty (played brilliantly by Daisy May Cooper). Young David is so amused by Peggoty that he writes down the things she says on small bits of paper that he keep in a box. He goes to Yarmouth to visit her family by the sea that lives in an upside down capsized boat. Peggoty's son Ham and his girlfriend Emily (Anthony Welsh and Aimee Kelly) become his best friends. When David returns he finds his mother has remarried with Edward Murdstone (Darren Boyd) who brought his stern sister Jane (Gwendoline Christie) to be their housekeeper. His stepfather is abusive and unyielding sends David to London to work in his bottling factory where he boards with the ever growing family of Mr Micawber (Peter Capaldi) who is constantly running from debtors. Later on the family ends up and debtors prison, although The Micawber's remain ever optimistic. David grows up (now played by Dev Patel) and is told by Murdstone that is mother has died and already buried. He runs off to his only known relative Betsey Trotwood (the amazing Tilda Swinton) who is constantly running off donkeys from her yard and her lodger the eccentric Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). She decides to call David by Trotwood and sends him off to school run by Mr. Wickfield (Benedict Wong) and his daughter Agnes (Rosalind Eleazar). The creepy Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw) works as a servant at the school is uncomfortably enchanted by David's good nature. Aneurin Barnard plays James Steerforth who challenges his new friend who he has dubbed Daisy. David regales his boy school friends with the stories he has collected from his box of phrases that he has collected. It's really the first time that David has felt happy.

After he's out of school he goes to work for Mr. Spendlow (Matthew Cottle) and is totally smitten by his daughter Dora (Morfydd Clark), a pretty but shallow young woman who talks though her dog. David who has been living as a gentleman with the help of an allowance from his aunt prepares to propose to Dora. Then he discovers his aunt has become bankrupt. Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick has to move in with David in a tiny run down flat provided by Uriah Heep who was named a partner with Mr. Wickfield and had managed his aunts affairs. He later runs into Mr. Micawber and his family living on the street and soon they are all crammed in to his little place. David takes his friend James to visit Peggoty in the boat house. He steals the heart of Emily who runs off with him hoping to become a lady. Heartbreaking tragedy ensues. When he returns, his Aunt and Mr. Dick create a writing nook for David.

The movie starts with David speaking to an audience about the story of is life. Each of the segments are divided into chapters with David narrating the movie. Previous versions of David Copperfield have been blandly only white, even though the English empire at the time was global. The diversity of the casting is like the Star Trek federation where people are not judged by the color of their skin and only the characterizations remain. This is delightful and satisfying take on the perennial Dickens hero is one that will leave you smiling when you leave the theater.
(Review by reesa)

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