Movie Review: Bleak House

Movie Title :  Bleak House (2005)

Starring:  Gillian Anderson, Alun Armstrong, and Charlie Brooks

Movie’s Overall Satisfaction: 3 stars (out of possible 5) = Worthwhile

I’m doing something a little different today – a movie review.  I plan to do these from time to time as I discover new movies and TV series set in or around the Victorian era that I think my readers might be interested in.

So the first movie to be reviewed by me?  The 2005 BBC adaption of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece ‘Bleak House’.  Andrew Davies adapted this script (the same Mr. Davies who adapted the script for the Colin Firth version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’). There are a lot of other familiar faces here.  If you’ve watched ‘Cranford’ you’ll recognize Carey Mulligan (who played the young doctor’s sweetheart), now playing the roll of Ada.  ‘Becoming Jane’ fans will also recognize Anna Maxwell Martin (Jane’s sad sister ) playing the part of the heroine of ‘Bleak House’—Esther.

So here’s the plot summary for anyone who hasn’t yet read ‘Bleak House’ or seen any of the film adaptations. (Warning: spoilers ahead.) The story opens with two orphans (almost grown) named Ada and Rick being adopted by a Mr. John Jarndyce – a man they’ve never met. There’s some mystery surrounding Rick and Ada, which we later learn has to do with their being heirs to a possible fortune.  Unfortunately, before the pair can realize their fortunes, they must wait for the infamous case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce to be settled in the courts—a case that’s been dragged out for so many decades no one ever expects to see the end of it.

However, neither Rick nor Ada are the most important characters in the story—that spot belongs to a young woman named Esther.  Esther has had an unhappy childhood, was raised without ever meeting her parents, and is unable even to discover who they were.  She has been scooped up by the inexplicably generous Mr.  Jarndyce to play companion to the young Ada at ‘Bleak House’. Esther captures the fancy of a lawyer name Mr. Guppy but rejects his proposal of marriage. Still intent on winning her favor, he begins to dig into her past, hoping if he can uncover the secrets surrounding her, she’ll be grateful enough to marry him.  (Sorry Guppy, you’re wasting your efforts; we can already see Esther’s set her cap for the handsome young doctor who keeps stepping in and out of the story.)

Eventually, through the efforts of Guppy and others, Esther learns who her real mother is, only to find their relationship must never be acknowledged and that they can never meet again. There’s far more going on here than Esther,  Rick, and Ada’s stories but the plot is far too complex to be described in detail.  I won’t go into the ending to avoid giving it all away.

Reviewer’s impressions:  I enjoyed this version more than the previous BBC version starring Suzanne Burden, Dianna Rigg, and others.  I found the characters more likeable and the storyline less confusing (although to be fair, I was a kid when I saw the earlier version, so I may have simply been too young to understand the goings on).  I particularly enjoyed actress  Gillian Anderson’s version of one of the central characters, Lady Dedlock. Definitely a worthwhile movie and will be enjoyed by most people with a love for period pieces.

How movies are rated:

1 star =  Disappointing. (Will ditch it at my next garage sale.) — Rare

2 stars = So-so.  (A renter not a buyer.)

3 stars = Worthwhile ( not a must-see but worth owning.)

4 stars =  Very Enjoyable (Good enough to skip ebay and buy new!)

5 stars = Excellent (Has everything you could want and more. ) —  Rare

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