I’ve never read Charles Dicken’s book Great Expectations. So, I walked into the theatre with – sorry – no expectations of what the film would be like.
Great Expectations starts off somewhere in the 70s. Finn Bill is a 10 year old orphan boy who lives with his sister and her boyfriend, Joe (Chris Cooper). Estella is an orphaned 10-year-old girl who has been adopted by a crazy old rich woman, Miss Dinsmore (Anne Brancroft). Miss Dinsmore is rich but noticeably looney; she lives in her old mansion and mourns the day, 26 years ago, that her fiancé left her at the alter. Despite warnings from Miss Dinsmore that Estella will only break his heart, Finn continues to see Estella weekly.
Finn is a talented artist and he shows this early on in the film. His drawing brings him to meet an escaped criminal, Lustig. Finn helps out Lustig, but that story line ends as abruptly as it starts. Finn also draws a portrait of Estella for Miss Dinsmore early on in the film. A decade later, Estella is off studying abroad. Finn, who has retreated to a quiet life as a fisherman with his Uncle Joe, is approached by a lawyer representing a rich person who wants Finn to go to New York to exhibit his art. Finn is, at first, resistant to the idea because he has long given up being an artist, but at last he goes off to New York. He assumes that the rich person financing his art show is Miss Dinsmore, but is it?
In New York, Finn bumps into Estella. Estella is thinking about marrying an undecisive man named Walter Plane (Hank Azaria). And it is here that their old love affair picks up. Finn is a very quiet person and Estella is an icy cold tease. We are drawn into their relationship and never let go.
Ethan Hawke, doing an uncanny imitation of Tom Cruise, is very likeable in Great Expectations. Hawke’s Finn is spot on with the 10-year old version of Finn as portrayed by Jeremy Kissner. Gwyneth Paltrow is sexy and icy cold at the same time. Her Estella is hard to grasp and hard to figure out, but that is what makes Estella so intriguing to watch. Robert DeNiro makes a big impression as the escape convict Lustig. But the person who steals the movie is Anne Brancroft as Miss Dinsmore. She is wonderfully crazy and a joy to watch on screen. Worth mentioning is Chris Cooper as Uncle Joe. I really liked the character Uncle Joe; he’s a very down to earth and understanding person.
What stands out in Great Expectations, even more than the wonderful performances, is the cinematography. The movie simply looks ravishing. The movie is lush with greens and the camera moves in sensuous ways. I love how Great Expectations looks. Kudos to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
Also worth mentioning is the artwork by Francesco Clemente. The artwork is crude yet beautiful.
Great Expectations is a wonderful film with grand performances and a stunning look. The movie follows the romance of two people from childhood to adulthood. The story moves exceptionally well, though it starts out stronger than it ends. Don’t Miss Great Expectations in the theatres.