Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The Personal History of David Copperfield ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 29th January, 2020

The Personal History of David CopperfieldOne would expect the director of Death of Stalin to have his own particular reading of Charles Dickens, and in that Armando Iannucci does not disappoint, in The Personal History of David Copperfield. As in the book, the central character is confronted with the good, the bad and the ugly in society, refusing to have his buoyant personality crushed. Iannucci’s rendition is singularly jolly with some slapstick moments, such as Aunt Betsy Trotwood (Tilda Swinton) knocking trespassers off their donkeys, though I did not find the film “riotously funny” as some others reviewers have. It stands proud largely because of the deft performance and multiple facial expressions of Dev Patel as the amiable young man David, but he is backed up with sterling support from Hugh Laurie as the dotty and delusional Mr Dick and an extremely creepy Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep. A high percentage of other performers are Asian or Afro-Caribbean; this really is effective, colour-blind casting. Dickens’s own characters are so memorable in their peculiarities that the actors are probably justified in exaggerating their foibles. Purists might protest that one or another isn’t how they imagined their favourite character to be. But the whole thing hangs together well and offers one of the most pleasant two-hour cinema sessions currently available.

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