“I’ve been attempting to learn gentlemen’s humour from a book…” (The Personal History of David Copperfield review)

From the creator of ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘The Death of Stalin’, Armando Iannucci brings us his latest project ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’. Not a biopic of the American Magician, it’s the latest adaptation of Charles Dickens timeless novel, and features a fabulously British cast doing fantastically British things.

A modern take on the classic tale, the film chronicles the story of David Copperfield, a young orphan who goes through life encountering obstacles and interesting people around every corner. After his father dies young, his new step father will send him away to a factory in London. Slowly he’ll move from home to home and carer to carer while meeting a whole host of British talent.

Dev Patel plays the eponymous hero, and is wonderful in the role. Charismatic, empathetic and charming, he ensures we’re rooting for his down-on-his-luck hero from the word go. One of Copperfield’s talents is mimicking all the fun people he meets, and Patel displays some great skills in accurately mimicking the great actors on screen.

The cast is then FILLED with British stars left, right and centre, including Tilda Swinton as his well-meaning but slightly mad Aunt Betsey Trotwood; Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, playing the same bumbling aristocrat that he’s been hilariously doing since Blackadder; Peter Capaldi as the optimistic Wilkins Micawber; and Ben Whishaw as the slimy clerk Uriah Heep. However, the cast doesn’t stop there, and also includes Paul Whitehouse (‘The Fast Show’), Benedict Wong (‘Doctor Strange’), Daisy May Cooper (‘This Country’) and Gwendoline Christie (‘Game of Thrones’) among many others.

The charm of this film is the soft, British comedy beats that flow throughout the film. All the cast are having great fun playing bumbling caricatures, and the script they get to work with (adapted from the novel by Iannucci and Simon Blackwell) is littered with wonderful wit, comedy dialogue and fun word play. Visual slapstick, quirky mannerisms and brilliant character beats all culminate in an undeniably British film.

The film is also notable for its lavish design and an imaginative use of creative scene transitions. The score by Christopher Willis is a beautiful mix of string melodies that weaves wonderfully throughout the film.

Overall, ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ is an utterly charming Bristish comedy drama that honours Dickens novel while not being afraid to be creative in its story telling choices. While not as cutting or sharp as Iannucci’s other projects, it remains quaint and fun with the help from a whole host of hilarious British faces who are all clearly having an absolute blast.

5 stars 4

 

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