Friday, December 14, 2012

Miniseries Review - Bleak House

Bleak House
Based on the book by Charles Dickens
Release Date: October 27th, 2005 – December 16th, 2005
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan, Patrick Kennedy, Nataniel Parker, Gillian Anderson, Timothy West, John Lynch, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman, Phil Davis, Loo Brealey, Catherine Tate, Alun Armstrong, Pauline Collins, Johnny Vegas, Hugo Speer, Anne Reid and Ian Richardson
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The case of Jardyce verses Jardyce has spent many years in chancery and destroyed many lives. There are too many wills and no definitive final version. Ada Clare and Richard Carstone have just found out they are at the heart of this case. Having spent years in schools and sheltered, they never knew of their stake in this historic case. But now one of the other possible benefactors, John Jardyce, has taken in these two wards of Jardyce, and hired a companion for Ada, the sweet Esther Summerson. While the case continues to play out in the courts of chancery, Esther and Ada try to come to terms with this new life they have been given, while poor Richard can't detach himself from the fortune he might have if the case where to be settled in his and Ada's favor. Though there are many people who could be effected from the outcome of the case. Lady Deadlock has some stake, though how much is not made clear. Yet it is Lady Deadlock's secret, and the ruthlessness of her husband's lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn, that in the end could have a far greater effect on Esther than any court verdict. From a scribe called Nemo to a street boy named Joe, a "childlike" man with more guile that you could imagine, to an odd hoarder who spontaneously combusts, it is the little people, the odd characters that are touched by this case that make the beautiful tapestry that is Bleak House.

The first time I watched Bleak House was when it aired on PBS and I did not enjoy the experience. Yes, I know this is blasphemy and my fellow Anglophiles have derided me for this, just so you know you aren't along in the shock they felt. I just felt it was too drawn out, having to wait weeks for each installment, when what I really wanted to do was marathon it. Also the fact that many things that where scandalous and taboo in Victorian times are rather the norm today. There was also the fact that I didn't really care for the actress who plated Esther. At this time I had only seen Anna Maxwell Martin in North and South. She was good in that and then she died. I just felt she didn't have the strength to carry this show on her shoulders and I kept hoping for her death. I mean, I can't stand her and she's picking up all these people in thrall to her, why exactly? More on that later. But the main problem besides my hatred of Anna (which I have somewhat resolved, either she has become a better actress over time or I've just gotten used to her) was the drastic jump at the end. There is a mood and a feeling throughout the miniseries that jumped in the last scene. Everything is dark and sensibly bleak and then all of a sudden it's happy and jovial and every one's dancing and the music is upbeat and not fitting the tone. Icky jumping the sharkness. Even the music in the end credits is all happy happy joy joy and I think, more than anything, that left me scratching my head and dissatisfied. Now, when I watch, which I have done several times since, I am prepared for this jump and therefore, though I don't like it, I know it's coming and can brace for the impact.

There are other things that just irk me, most are directed more at Dickens than at the production. I'm sorry but John Jardyce is so awesome he deserved a happier ending, stupid Esther and your stupid Doctor. I still hate Richard, weak willed annoying cry baby... which has become a hatred of this actor because of his role in this. Recently he showed up on Boardwalk Empire and I was all, icky, no, can we kill him here too? Guppy to me is fascinating and perfectly played by Burn Gorman. Yet, I want to understand Guppy's motives more. He's totally entertaining, but does he love Esther for her or for her expectations? Because he's obviously one of the smartest characters in the story being able to easily unravel the central mystery of Esther's parentage... but is it this secret that makes him "love" Esther... and yes, I know I need to read the book and maybe this will answer my questions, but still, more closure or explanation was needed with this. And really, what was the draw of Esther. She picks up all these people who have an unwavering devotion to her, but why? What has Esther ever done than be just a boring dull person who never hurt or harmed anyone and shows just a little kindness and young girls and boys are willing to risk their lives for her? Really? If that's true, then a stronger actress was truly needed, see rant above. Also, Esther's stupid Doctor, I've never liked him and just couldn't put my finger on why he was bothering me even more on this re watching and I realized he was on Lark Rise to Candleford as the supposed match for Dorcas in the end, which I totally don't buy. Dorcas deserved so much better.

Yet, the things I love have started to overcome those that bother me. See, repeat viewings are good. Also, I think that Trollope was correct in his attack of this book in that it's the secondary characters that you love while the primary characters are weak and unlikable. I mean, who hasn't watched this miniseries and had a strange urge to yell at people "Shake me up Judy"? Also, I would never have been one to think that Johnny Vegas was suited towards period drama, yet it seems as if the self immolating Krook was written just for him. Then there's just little cameos like Richard Cant as the slightly drunk butler Mercury, that entertain me to no end, oh, and I want to be the mooching cop Bucket when I grow up. I guess I'm just saying, in a round about manner, that yes, I'm sorry I was quick to judge this series originally, but I can still see why I hated it, but have now come to find things that I greatly appreciate that make me overlook the flows, *cough* Esther *cough*.


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