The Personal History of David Copperfield

Dickens would dig it

It’s really quite amazing what Scottish director Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin) and co-screenwriter Simon Blackwell have done here. They’ve trimmed and reworked an almost 700-page novel to create two boisterous hours of filmed entertainment that remains true, if a little less dour, to the Charles Dickens classic.

And that’s just the start. They’ve also made use of some inspired multiracial and totally color-blind casting, breathing new life into all those traditional pasty-faced Englishperson roles. 

A never-better Dev Patel sets the pace in the title role with an energetic, engaging performance, and is admirably backed up by Peter Capaldi, Daisy May Cooper, Hugh Laurie, and dozens more. Ben Whishaw does a terrifically oily turn as Uriah Heep, and Tilda Swinton’s perf as the donkey-shooing Betsey Trotwood is alone worth the price of admission. It’s the kind of film where you can tell the cast was having fun. You will, too. (119 min)

Released in Japan January 22, 2021