Arriving in the wake of the BBC's sweeping Little Dorrit
, ITV's The Old Curiosity Shop
feels like Dickens lite (in the U.S., both productions aired as part of PBS's Masterpiece Classic). Fourteen-year-old Nell Trent (Becoming Jane
's Sophie Vavasseur), one of the author's best-loved creations, lives with Grandfather (Derek Jacobi), a compulsive gambler. When he fails to make good on his debts to the gluttonous Daniel Quilp (Toby Jones), the moneylender takes over his shop and threatens to make Nell his servant, so she and Grandfather flee to the Midlands. Back in London, Quilp conspires with Dick Swiveller (Geoff Breton), a naive associate of Nell's brother, who also hopes to benefit from their return. With a price on their heads, the duo accepts help from kind strangers, like Mrs. Jarley (a delightful Zoë Wanamaker), and dodges predatory characters, like puppeteer Mr. Codlin (The Office
's Martin Freeman). With the entrance of the mysterious Jacob (Adrian Rawlins), the story shifts into procedural territory. Jacob has the means to help the fugitives, but he'll have to catch up with them before poverty takes its toll. If Jacobi and Jones bring the requisite intensity to their parts, Vavasseur struggles to make Nell sufficiently empathetic, and a narrative that tries to do too much in too little time robs the ending of its intended impact. Filmed on location in atmospheric Ireland, this downbeat version of The Old Curiosity Shop
is hardly a waste of time, but a more expansive interpretation would've served this material better. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Based on Dickens classic novel The Old Curiosity Shop tells the tale of Little Nell Trent (Sophie Vavasseur) who lives with her doting grandfather (Jacobi) in his London shop. It is a magical place, filled from wall to wall with dust-laden treasures, known as The Old Curiosity Shop. Grandfather keeps his nocturnal gambling activities a secret, borrowing heavily from evil, profiteering loan shark Daniel Quilp (Jones). When he gambles away what little money they possess, Quilp seizes the opportunity to take possession of their beloved shop. It seems Nell and Grandfather are left with only one option - to escape. The pair fall in with a number of colourful characters, some villainous and some affectionate, on the run from Quilp and his band of misguided money seekers, including Nells own wastrel brother Freddie (Dick) and his gullible friend Dick Swiveller (Breton).