Little Dorrit (2008)
Bleak Dorrit
17 November 2008
I may have been looking forward to this too much. Period drama has been hitting new heights recently but I'm not surprised that there hasn't been a rush to comment on the latest BBC/Andrew Davies Dickens adaptation. 18 months ago, Bleak House, with its dark shadows, glacial foreboding and taut narrative storyline gripped the nation. Not so Little Dorrit.

What's the problem? Surely with a winning formula, a great cast and a brilliant novel, we must be guaranteed some sort of success? The three leads are very successfully cast. McFadyen and Courtenay are both living their parts and taking every opportunity that comes their way. Amy has just the right combination of winsomeness, vulnerability and moral strength and can bring a tear to the most jaded eye.

But here's where the problem starts. She's so tall, fit and healthy that if someone told you she was the British All-Comers keepie-up champion you wouldn't be surprised.

And the whole series is like that. London looks spruce and modern, the Marshalsea looks more inviting than any accommodation I ever had in London, everyone is clean and fettled and no one seems to have a problem worthy of the name. Parts of it,like everything associated with the Meagles at Twickenham, are actually boring and defective.

Apart from that, the planning that went into the storyline of Bleak House to come up with a strong narrative thread supporting two half hour episodes a week is missing here. Characters constantly seem to be rushing off stage. Andy Serkis, as Rigaud, is a delicious villain and would be a much-needed, hugely oppressive presence if only they'd give him more than a minute an episode.

I can't see myself falling in wholeheartedly love with this production, especially when there is a much more imaginative (and even better acted) adaptation already on DVD, from Christina Edzard.

I love Panks and the Bleeding Heart Yard crew, and the Clennam household is a tremendous success. I'd watch Judy Parfitt mowing her grass, she's beautifully paired with Alun Armstrong and Sue Johnston is perfect as Affery.

But whilst it scores, it also continues to disappoint. I just don't think enough hard work went into it at the planning and scriptwriting stages.
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