My GREAT EXPECTATIONS Are Met in this 2013 Film Adaptation

GREAT-EXPECTATIONS-PosterNot long after the BBC miniseries, the Brits have released a new film version of Great Expectations as well. I’ll never be one to balk at a new adaptation of one of my favorite novels, but I was extra excited for this film after being so disappointed by the miniseries. In that, director Mike Newell and screenwriter David Nicholls did not fail me.
This film is effortlessly cinematic in scope, giving a grand feeling to this lesson in tempered expectations. The film adheres very closely to the key events, moments, and characters in the novel while not getting too bogged down in the exact pacing of the novel. Much of the middle third of the novel that is so hard to trudge through is remixed with the final, thrilling third so that the film never quite loses your attention. And, while Pip and Estella’s relationship remains the central plot of the film, it is never blown out of proportion (like in other iterations of the story).
Jeremy Irvine is well cast as selfish pretty boy Pip, endearing enough to make you like Pip (no matter how unlikable the character really is). Miscast, however, is Irvine’s younger brother Toby as Young Pip. He’s too green to not let his overly expressive face turn every expression he makes into a comedic over-dramatization.
Speaking of overly-expressive, Helena Bonham Carter delivers a blessedly controlled performance as Miss Havisham. She never matches the nuances that Gillian Anderson brought to the character, but she does capture the sorrow and vengeance that ekes out of Miss Havisham. Holliday Grainger’s cold expressions are suited for her role as Estella, but Olly Alexander’s twinky performance as Herbert Pocket feels out of place (making this one, bizarrely, of the most homosexual adaptations of Great Expectations). Fortunately, the veteran actors in the film—Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemying, Sally Hawkins—deliver great performances to outweigh some of the less-than-desirable casting choices.
For now, this Great Expectations will remain my favorite adaptation.

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Helen Fielding Will Make You Just MAD ABOUT BRIDGET JONES All Over Again

This year has seen a slew of high profile authors releasing sequels to their iconic novels (Stephen King, John Grisham, Lauren Weisberger). So Helen Fielding’s follow-up to her Bridget Jones books seems to be perfectly timed. Since Edge of Reason was released in 1998, a lot has happened in Bridget’s life. Fielding has updated Bridget to the present day, and created some controversial storytelling in the process.
bridget-jones-mad-about-the-boy1It’s been four years since Bridget’s husband Mark Darcy died, leaving her with their two children, Billy and Mabel. Her recovery from this tragedy has been a long process, but her friends insist on pushing her to start dating again. And just like that, our old friend Bridget is back. She goes on a diet, joins Twitter, and starts writing a screenplay—bumbling and fumbling through it all in true Bridget fashion.
While most of Britain was in an uproar at the death of Darcy, I feel that it was a smart move. Bridget has always been about her troubles with men, so it would make sense to have her dating once again. And this way we get to keep a pure memory of Darcy and don’t resent Bridget’s new loves—although her dating a younger man is equally controversial. But her toy boy Roxster (whom she meets through Twitter) is a charming match, and they have exceptional chemistry in the novel—even though it is a bit juvenile.
Where Mad About the Boy falters, though, is in the overall storytelling. Bridget’s struggles with social media and texting are spot on, but so much of her mom drama and screenplay ineptitudes are long drawn out. Far too much time is spent dealing with a bout of head lice. And Fielding seems to have reached a new record for the number of times a book has used the word fart. Despite this, Bridget’s shorter diary entries—no longer constrained to the month-by-month format—help move the story along much faster.
As someone very plugged into the pop culture of the moment, I found this entry in the series the most accessible. Her humor really shines through in this novel more so than in the previous ones. It was impossible for me to read this book without a huge grin on my face. I definitely recommend any fan of Bridget Jones to pick up a copy ASAP.

The CUCKOO Is CALLING for You to Read This Hardboiled Mystery Novel

Famed supermodel Lula Landry has plummeted to her death from her third-story balcony in what the police assume is a suicide. But three months later, her brother John Bristow seeks out private detective Cormoran Strike and presents some compelling evidence that Lula was actually murdered. Strike is warily convinced, but he desperately needs the money and so enters this world of models, designers, and film producers to discover the truth.

book-articleInlineBy now we all know that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. So much of the novel’s form and voice is reminiscent of Rowling’s writing (including the 5-part division that mirrors The Casual Vacancy); and Calling is filled with Rowling’s Dickensian character names—Rochelle Onafide, Freddy Bestigui, Kieran Kolovas-Jones. (Of course, it’s easy to see the similarities knowing Galbraith’s identity, but those few who read the book before his true identity leaked had no idea Rowling was behind it.) That being said, a hardboiled mystery novel would be a natural extension of Rowling’s writing abilities considering all the great mysteries that filled her Harry Potter series.

Strike is a likable yet gruff protagonist with an intriguing backstory that is slowly revealed throughout the novel. More amusing is his temporary secretary Robin who fancies herself a detective as well, donning aliases and scouring the internet for clues (if you’ve ever wanted to be a sleuth, then you’ll easily identify with her). In fact, all of the characters in the novel are striking in their own way. Rowling vividly describes these characters while attributing recognizable accents and speech patterns (you’ll be thinking in a British accent by the time you finish this book).

The biggest problem with the novel is its length. At 450 pages, it seems to be exceptionally long for a mystery novel. But Rowling’s sprawling style is entertaining enough that you never really get bored reading it. It is also very dialogue heavy with so much of the story being revealed by Strike’s interviews with the various people in Lula’s life. Some find that problematic, but I greatly enjoy dialogue scenes and found it very enjoyable. (Until the end, when the dialogue-heavy climax feels clichéd and lazy.)

The style of The Cuckoo’s Calling is more reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Dashiell Hammett as opposed to contemporary crime fiction. It has a nostalgic air that adds to its appeal. This is the kind of mystery novel that would suck in many a reader, even those disinclined to read mystery/crime fiction.