5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The financial subplot is ruefully applicable to today,
This review is from: Little Dorrit Season 1 (Amazon Instant Video)
The commentary on high-flying bankers will resonate today, as Bernie Madoff was actually conceived 150 years ago by Charles Dickens. Madoff's and the fictional Mr. Merdle's stories are virtually the same. See, this is what happens when high finance is left to its own devices: it ends up cheating to maintain that euphoric 50% return. But when the pyramid collapses, the economy is left in tatters and lives are ruined. The 19th century was riddled with financial panics because foxes were guarding the henhouses. After about a century of these cyclical bubbles, government oversight was firmly established in the 1930s. Unfortunately, we gradually forgot these lessons and allowed ourselves to be taken in again. Five years after the collapse, we still haven't recovered. Read your Dickens, or watch this well-mounted series from the BBC, and relearn those lessons.
Financial ups and downs characterize "Little Dorrit", as we watch the roller-coaster ride that the Dorrit family takes from riches to rags to riches to rags again. The story has the usual Dickens ingredients: noble heroes and heroines, crusty caricatures of servants, exotic supporting players, convoluted plots with unconvincing resolutions. Along with many 19th century novels, this story displays severe infection from Shakespeare: quite apart from the convoluted plot with its "big reveals" at the end, so characteristic of Shakespeare's "late romances" that were particularly popular in the Victorian era (cf. "Cymbeline", "The Winter's Tale", "The Tempest"), the character of the Dorrit patriarch is a none-too-subtle sketch of King Lear, with his three children (two bad, and a third good daughter), his retreat into fantasy to escape harsh realities, his occasional descents into madness. Somewhat ironic, this, as I had always thought that Tom Courtenay's greatest role was in "The Dresser", where he plays an assistant to a mad Albert Finney who plays Lear. But I think it turns out that his performance here might very well go down as his greatest. Wow. I hope he won awards. Other good performances: Matthew Macfadyen as the almost ethereal Arthur Clennam. Clennam is the purest example of the Dickens noble hero, and Macfadyen never hits an inconsistent note, despite temptations offered by the story. Claire Foy as the eponymous heroine seems unprepossessing and too timid at first, but that's consistent with Dickens' design. She wears very well, and gathers strength, as things go on. Judy Parfitt portrays a block of granite excellently. Eddie Marsan as the hyperactive landlord is amusing, snorting between every word. One VERY serious blot, though: Andy Serkis as the murderous villain Rigaud. Serkis appears to believe that he's playing Gollum again: getting right up into people's personal space, whispering to them nose-to-nose, caressing their cheeks. He even climbs up a house at one point: one is reminded of Mount Doom. (Does he do this with every role?) He plays the character in such a repellent manner that it's hard to see how he would be tolerated in any sphere of higher English society, even among dissipated wanna-be young painters.
Another blot: there's a subplot involving an independent young woman who steals a young African companion from another rich family. It wasn't very good in the novel; here, they try -- unsuccessfully -- to turn it into something else. After a few episodes, however, they don't even follow up with what they started. The depiction of this "Tattycorum" character and her subplot is far too fraught with 21st century concerns and sensitivities; screenwriter Andrew Davies would've been better advised to axe it altogether. Miss Wade and Tattycorum are not all that integral to the foundations of the climax, anyway.
But, on the whole, a very nice way to spend 8 or 9 hours. 4 out of 5 stars.