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The Crack Magazine


The Personal History of David Copperfield

Director: Armando Iannucci

Stars: Dev Patel, Ben Whishaw, Hugh-Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Tilda Swinton, Rosalind Eleazar, Morfydd Clark, Darren Boyd, Gwendoline Christie

Satirist Iannucci’s latest is a fun and frantic take on the Dickens classic. Patel, leading a multi-racial cast, is the titular hero making his way through Victorian England, encountering the virtuous and not-so-virtuous poor and the capricious rich, while gradually learning to assert his identity. In a meta touch, Copperfield recites his story in a theatre, then pops up throughout to observe and editorialize. Darkness is here too in the presence of Copperfield’s towering stepfather Murdstone (Boyd) and in the memorable depiction of poverty and homelessness in a ramshackle Victorian London, admirably recreated with minimal recourse to special effects. Political satire fans will be left wanting, and while some of the pathos and narrative nuance does get lost in the comic melee and truncated translation, the picture makes it up with a first rate, game cast, particularly Ben Whishaw as the oleaginous, sinister social climber Uriah Heep; Tilda Swinton as Copperfield’s heroically scatty aunt Betsey Trotwood; and Peter Capaldi as the debt-plagued Mr Micawber. The sequence, retooled from the book as a showcase for the character, in which Micawber poses as a school teacher and attempts to wing it through a Latin lesson, is a comic masterclass.