Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PBS' Masterpiece Classic Great Expectations

PBS is airing an adaptation of yet another Charles Dickens classic, Great Expectations. Along with the usual excellence in casting, sets, costumes and production which I’ve come to expect from any Masterpiece production, this piece has the added benefit of a more instant gratification, since it’s only two episodes long. The first episode aired this past Sunday, but you can still watch it online at PBS.org. Episode 2 is scheduled to air this coming Sunday.

In the story, Pip, an orphaned boy living with his cruel older sister and her kind husband Joe, who is a blacksmith, stumbles upon an escaped convict who threatens him with dire repercussions if he doesn’t help him evade the authorities. Frightened, Pip complies and brings the man not only a file to hack off his shackles but, in a simple act of kindness, he also brings him a piece of food. The convict is captured and life goes back to normal for Pip, until he’s volunteered as a playmate to Estella, the adopted daughter of the quite batty yet very rich Miss Havisham, hauntingly portrayed by the beautiful Gillian Anderson. As Pip falls hopelessly in love with the bewitching Estella, he dreams of a bright future far away from the drudgery of the forge. As a simple blacksmith apprentice, his hopes seem all for naught, until a mysterious benefactor presents him with the means to rechart his future and reach for his dreams and his love.

Episode 1 shined thanks to the wonderful performance by its young child lead, Oscar Kennedy, as Pip, whose talent was on par with his adult counterparts. The sets and scenery were amazing, from the sweeping shots of the marshland near the forge at the movie's onset to the decaying Satis House home to the fragile and wraithlike figure of Miss Havisham. Every aspect of the production transports to a time and place far, far away.