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The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)

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The life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity, with his own adventures and the web of friends and enemies he meets along his way.


Release date: 8/28/20

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Critics' Choice Award nominations!

Best Production Design - Cristina Casali, Charlotte Dirickx

Best Costume Design - Suzie Harman, Robert Worley

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I was so looking forward to this back when the trailer came out and was aggravated when, upon finally being released in August, it was in theaters only ("how can I see The Personal History of David Copperfield???" was the subject of more than one Google search.) At least you can pay to get it streaming now, so I caught it on Amazon Prime.

It's wild, energetic, and more than a little madcap, but I kind of loved it. I'll admit that David Copperfield isn't one of my favorite Dickens novels, so I wasn't all that beholden to the source material and didn't mind some of the omissions or changes. Plenty of stuff gets compressed, which can give it a breathless/whirlwind feel, but I really like some of the changes in the Dora storyline, and I think Agnes has more definition as a character (in the book, she felt more to me like one of Dickens's Angel of the House types.) I also like how the notion of Davy eventually writing about his experiences is threaded throughout the movie, and I enjoy the way it draws attention to the many different names people give him.

The whole cast is terrific. Dev Patel of course is delightful, and he made me feel invested in a protagonist I never had too much interest in (on a side note, he looks lovely in period garb.) The actor playing the young Davy does a nice job too, and you can really feel the throughline from one to another. Other highlights for me are Benedict Wong as Mr. Wickfield and Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, and Ben Whishaw is suitably slimy as Uriah Heep. This was the first time I've seen Rosalind Eleazar, but I really enjoyed her as Agnes.

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That was terrible. The whole cast was trying too hard to be whimsical. 

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I saw this in a theater when they were open for about 10 minutes last September. I’m a Dickens fan, and seeing this on the screen was delightful.  The cast was so good, and I loved seeing Dev Patel as the title character.  

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