Daily Archives: February 1, 2019

Great Expectations

From the Chicago Reader (January 19, 1998). — J.R.

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A reductio ad absurdum of the recent trend of idea-starved producers to plunder 19th-century English fiction — a movement that to my mind has justified itself only with Clueless, and in this case makes Charles Dickens look like a weak second cousin to John Grisham. In fact, so little of the novel is dealt with in this updated adaptation, and so much of that little is mauled, that it might have made more sense to do a remake of Youngblood Hawke, the sort of wet dream this movie is really craving to approximate. Ethan Hawke plays a young gulf-coast artist (formerly known as Pip) lured to the Big City, Gwyneth Paltrow plays cruel Estella (the only character allowed to keep the same name), and Anne Bancroft can’t be blamed for the incoherent version of Miss Havisham assigned to her by Mitch Glazer’s stupid script (though perhaps Robert De Niro, playing the convict, can be blamed for reminding us of Cape Fear). A horrendous effort all around, though a couple of the locations — notably a Venetian Gothic mansion on Sarasota Bay — are suggestive. Alfonso Cuaron, who did a far better job with A Little Princess, directed.… Read more »

A Little Princess

From the Chicago Reader (May 1,1995). — J.R.

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I’m not sure whether this sensitive 1995 adaptation of a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden) from Warners is quite the miracle some of my colleagues claimed, but it blows most Disney competition out of the water and is enjoyable for grown-ups as well. Set during World War I, it follows the adventures of an imaginative and resourceful little girl (Liesel Matthews) raised in India and then deposited by her father at an exclusive New York boarding school, where she soon becomes the victim of a mean headmistress (Eleanor Bron). Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron in his American debut and scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and Amy Ephron, the film uses studio resources to create an entrancing world both in New York and in the heroine’s fantasies about India. G, 97 min. (JR)

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