In brief -- this was a fairly good adaptation, all told. The cast, with a few exceptions, was really excellent, with Bill Paterson's Stephen and Beatie Edney's Louisa being the standouts. And even though it looked like they'd been given about $1.50 to spend on the sets, somehow they made it work. (I can't say as much for the soundtrack, though, which sounded equally cheap and much less effective.) The biggest problem, by far, was the uneven pacing. I wouldn't recommend this film before reading the book -- it would be easy to get lost in the "muddle," as Stephen would say. But it makes a decent supplement to the book.
And we're into the home stretch. Nice little monologue in a mirror for Richard E. Grant. Still don't feel that his look is quite right, but I really can't fault his acting. He's done a fantastic job. Sissy's acting, however, strikes me as a little flat. And she wears her hair down for no reason, a la Billie Piper in Mansfield Park.
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.
You guys, I have to get you a screencap of Mr. Gradgrind's blackboard. The stuff on it would give nightmares to a graduate student in calculus. And it's so big he has to climb a ladder to get to the top of it, no joke!
The pacing here is a bit rushed -- probably because it's only 104 minutes. If I didn't know the story, I'm not sure how well I'd be able to follow it.
About that vote on which film or miniseries I should recap -- we had an interesting split. All the voters on this site wanted Hard Times, and all the voters in the Dickensblog Facebook group wanted Martin Chuzzlewit! But there were four voters here and three voters over there, which means Hard Times wins. With any luck, I'll get to it, or at least start it, this weekend!
It's been a while now since I've done a review/recap of a Dickens film or miniseries -- which kind of makes sense, because it's been a while now since a new one has come out. However, I do have two box sets of older adaptations sitting on the shelf, most of which I've never seen before. So I think I'd like to do another one pretty soon. I've narrowed it down to three possibilities to start with:
Hard Times (1994), starring Alan Bates, Bob Peck, Bill Paterson, Harriet Walter, and Richard E. Grant.
Martin Chuzzlewit (1994), starring Paul Scofield, Tom Wilkinson, Philip Franks, and Julia Sawalha.
Barnaby Rudge (1960), starring John Wood, Barbara Hicks, Nigel Arkwright, Newton Blick, and Joan Hickson.
If any of you want to express a preference, put it in the comment section below. If we don't get any votes, I'll just go ahead and pick one!
Riverside, California, is getting ready for its annual Dickensfest. The featured book this year is Hard Times. And the Press-Enterprise has some details about the choral concert that will be part of the festival.
In 1837, Edward Caswall, using the same publisher and illustrator as the highly successful young Charles Dickens, had a hit with the satirical essay collection Sketches of Young Ladies, describing varying types of ladies: The Romantic Young Lady, The Mysterious Young Lady, The Matter-of-Fact Young Lady, and so forth. Six months later -- as if he weren't busy enough simultaneously writing The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist -- Dickens published an anonymous sequel to this volume, titled Sketches of Young Gentlemen. Two years later he followed it up with Sketches of Young Couples. All three volumes are offered here, with "Phiz's" original illustrations. Caswall's contribution is quite funny, but Dickens, as you might expect, digs more deeply into his characters (giving them names, expanding their amount of dialogue, and so forth) and so extracts even more amusement from them. As Paul Schlicke observes in his introduction, "The contrasts between Caswall's work and Dickens's highlight the ability of Boz to evoke the distinctiveness of a character in a few swift strokes."