Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Charles Dickens' beloved semi-biographical novel David Copperfield has been adapted for television numerous times. The 1999 BBC Masterpiece Classics hits all the right notes, in this bittersweet story of young boy's circuitous journey to adulthood. It features an all-star cast including Daniel Radcliffe, Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins and Ian Mc Kellan, along with an excellent screen play, that very deftly condenses the nearly 1,000 page novel into a 3-part, 180 minute, mini-series.
Without going too deeply into the well-known story, young David Copperfield (Daniel Radcliffe) is left in the care of his loving mother and cruel stepfather, Edward Murdstone (Trevor Eve) upon the death of his father. After suffering through a difficult time at school with the harsh headmaster, (Ian Mc Kellan) David is sent off to work in a factory in London. In this terribly bleak environment, David meets a flamboyant and kindhearted father figure, Wilkins Micawber. (Bob Hoskins) When Mr. Micawber winds up in debtor's prison, David walks all the way to Dover to seek out his only living relative, his eccentric great aunt, Betsey Trotwood, (Dame Maggie Smith) who takes him in and raises him as if he were her own son.
The story follows Copperfield's journey to adulthood and his ill-fated romance with Little Emily, the orphaned daughter of his mother's affable housekeeper Ms. Peggoty, (Pauline Quirke) his reacquainting and betrayal by old school chum, Steerforth (Harry Lloyd), and his friendship with his landlord's daughter Anges Wickfield (Amanda Ryan), who along with Mr. Micawber, is instrumental in bringing to justice the thieving law clerk law Uriah Heep, (Nicholas Lyndhurst) who works for Anges' father, and attempts to blackmail him to take over his law firm.
The strength of this mini-series is the masterful development of the colorful characters brought to life by a superb cast. Daniel Ratcliffe perfectly captures Copperfield's innocence and vulnerability, while Bob Hoskins is simply delightful as the gregarious Micawber. Unfortunately, the wonderful Imelda Staunton is underutilized as Micawber's steadfast wife. Nicholas Lyndhurst delivers a dean-on performance the cloyingly humble, patronizing, antagonist Uriah Heep. Of course, Dame Maggie Smith showcases a brilliant performance as David's gracious great aunt Betsey Trotwood.
Adrian Hodges' screenplay is expertly written, juggling an amazing number of subplots and characters into a cohesive story line. Literary purists may be disappointed with some of the missing subplots and characters from the novel. However, Hodges remains true to the basic storyline, without over burdening the audience with every detail from the novel.
This beautifully filmed mini-series also features excellent production values including period costumes, sets, and cinematography. Actor Tom Wilkinson's warm narration is vital in providing cohesiveness to the basic storyline. The DVD set includes an informative special feature, Dickens' Favorite Child: A behind the scenes look at the creation of David Copperfield.
The BBC Masterpiece classic mini-series David Copperfield is an excellent adaptation of the novel, and comes highly recommended for fans of British period drama. The mini-series breathes fresh life into some of Dickens' most memorable characters, and especially, his "favorite child" David Copperfield.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older