An orphaned young man meets a convict in a cemetery and sets into motion a series of events that leads him from a life in his brother-in-law’s forge to a mysterious inheritance and his acquaintance with the eerie Miss Havisham and her beautiful ward.
Everyone knows the story of Great Expectations. It’s the creepiest Dickens book (perhaps tied with Bleak House, which has also been made into a BBC mini-series starring Gillian Anderson and available on Netflix), and to my Gothic-obsessed mind, that makes it the best Dickens book. And this mini-series is a triumphant and occasionally terrifying adaptation of his best-loved novel. The production values are incredible – it looks much more expensive than these things usually do, and believe me, I know from BBC adaptations of Victorian lit. I know them so well that the other day I was watching the Masterpiece Mansfield Park and I said aloud, alone in my living room with only my glass of champagne to keep me company – “That’s the library set from Jane Eyre!” The cinematography is stunning, the costumes are elaborate and GILLIAN ANDERSON IS MISS HAVISHAM, you guys! She’s magnificent in it, playing that bitter, jilted old broad with this lilting, childlike little voice that makes her one hundred thousand times spookier. Throw in a gorgeous score and the hottest Pip ever, and baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham
Now the feminist in me wants to revolt that Gillian Anderson – ultimate knockout for the ages – is more likely to be cast as a villainous hag than a love interest these days, simply because she dares to still exist while being over the age of 40, but the part of me that just loves great performances is thrilled to see her give such a brilliant, singular spin to the role.
Douglas Booth as Pip
Hellooo, Pip. Booth hasn’t been in a whole bunch to date, but he has a giant roster of projects coming up, and thank lordy for that because the world needs to share in his gorgeousness. Soon he’ll be Romeo in this year’s Romeo and Juliet, and in 2014 he stars in two of the most anticipated releases: Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending.
Vanessa Kirby as Estella
As you can see, Vanessa Kirby is a beautiful woman, but in Great Expectations she was saddled with some unfortunate wig and makeup choices, so Jill (with whom I watched this particular masterpiece) and I spent much of her screentime complaining that she wasn’t hot enough for Pip. However! She’ll also be in Jupiter Ascending, so we can compare their relative comeliness some more when she’s not wearing that brunette corkscrew wig.
David Suchet as Jaggers
Jill informed me that this gentleman played Poirot in the Agatha Christie series which I somehow HAVE NOT SEEN even though I love Poirot more than life itself, so trust me, that is going on the list. He’s also been in about a million other British things.
Mark Addy as Pumblechook
Mark Addy is, like Suchet, one of those actors who pops up in tons of UK projects. He often plays bearded, chubby monarchs – he’s King Robert in Game of Thrones, for instance. He’s also been Friar Tuck, so you can see what casting calls his agent looks for.
Ray Winstone as Abel Magwitch
Ray Winstone has quite the resume. He’s been in Hugo, The Departed, Sexy Beast, Robin Hood and, well, he has 115 other credits to his name, so just check out his IMDB profile if you still can’t place him.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Medium.
It depends on if you, like I, have a friend (namely Jill) with whom you love to watch these Victorian Lit adaptations. Jill and I watched all three hours while drinking champagne and sewing fabric flowers for her upcoming nuptials (also she made French onion soup!), so it was pretty much the most delightful evening ever. However, I can definitely see watching this guy by yourself, under a blanket, with only some comfort food and bubbly as your companions.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low
You may have noticed that I keep mentioning champagne, but that’s only because it’s my go-to Vic Lit mini-series beverage (also my go-to life beverage). However, this is a really smart, deeply entertaining production, and you can be dead sober and still be blown away by it.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Top Notch
If Vic Lit and BBC are your bag, this is one of the best adaptations I’ve seen in ages. It’s thoughtful and creepy, romantic and devastating, beautifully shot and brilliantly acted. It’s a must.