The sets for this movie are sparse, but effective. You see Stephen walking past a never-ending brick wall with humungous "VOTE FOR THOMAS GRADGRIND" posters every few feet, you don't need much else.
Finally Harriet Walter gets a full scene. She's not an actress I would have thought of for this role, but she makes a good thing of it, in a quiet, austere way. And she's a nice foil to Bill Paterson's passionate Stephen.
And Louisa grows up, in about two seconds. Thank God for small favors. With the goings-on last night, I was having gruesome visions of child-brides and what not. Sissy too grows up, and goes from having a look of Emma Watson about her, to having a look of Jenna-Louise Coleman about her. The pacing is settling down a bit -- apart from the two-second growth process -- and the scene where Louisa and her father discuss Bounderby's proposal is nicely done. Louisa (Beatie Edney) has the stone-faced despair act down cold, and Mr. Gradgrind (Bob Peck) is chilling in his cluelessness.
Wish I could make you guys a .gif of Louisa throwing her wedding bouquet -- I've never seen anything thrown so spiritlessly in all my born days. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
And here comes Richard E. Grant. He doesn't quite match my mental image of Harthouse, at least not at first sight. However, whoever's playing Bitzer (I can't find his name) is all I could ask, with his narrow face, prim mouth, and perfect posture. Dilys Laye lacks the Roman nose that's supposed to be so prominent a feature of Mrs. Sparsit's face, but in other ways she's excellent.
I'll give Grant this -- his look may not be quite right, but his manner is suitably careless, and he and Louisa have some nice chemistry. The interplay between them, Bounderby, and Tom (Christien Anholt) is very well done and interesting to watch, though it takes a turn for the bizarre when Bounderby starts waving a dead fish around!
We start rushing again when we get to Stephen's refusal to join the union, which looks rather like some sort of a Soviet tribunal scene. I'm a bit surprised they didn't clap him in the gulag on the spot. He's nothing short of brilliant in his scene with Bounderby afterwards. I'm starting to think that Paterson is the best actor in the whole show.