24 February 2011 | emilyfry
It's just not very good
Okay, I know Dickens is a classic writer but the plot of his second novel was botched to blazes so I can quite understand why a new remake would want to edit out the major improbabilities, but it made up for what it lacked by an artfully constructed atmosphere of pervasive gloom and menace and by some truly memorable villains.
On the plus side, this adaption has a much smoother plot. On the minus what a heinous chunk of bowdlerised rubbish this production is. For example - why is Oliver sold, not bought as he is in the novel? Is that horror too much, of children available to the highest bidder? Why are the lovely visitengland.com cobbles so clean, not the stinking filth of the Victorian city? Fagin has conveniently placed two tier bunk beds in his lair for the boys to sleep in, (I've stayed in worse looking youth hostels), hardly the actions of a man and a gang hunted from hide-out to hide out as he is in the book.
What is the flipping point of getting in an actress with the chops of Sophie Okonedo if you are going to mutilate the part to nothing but noble suffering. Nancy was tough, she was a sneak, a player, a genuine conflicted woman in a bad place who could still brag "there's not many people besides me that could have got out of their way." She had the nous to drug Bill Sikes with laudanum... but here she's just a cipher. It's a sad waste of one of Dickens' few interesting female roles.
BTW, 19th century London was a lot more culturally diverse than some of the American reviewers here seem to believe: try google for "The London Committee for the relief of the Back Poor" of 1786 for examples. By 1838 many brothels (Dickens' Nancy was a prostitute) offered women billed as "dusky nefertitis" and suchlike.
But the worst character destruction must be that of Bill Sikes, formerly the murderous embodiment of brutalised evil, now well a dog loving softie who spends a night in a mill pond protecting Olivers safety and carries him back to London in his arms. The artful dodger complains when not sent on a job with him. The deal with Bill Sikes is you'd have to be mad to want to go on a job with him. He's supposed to be terrifying. Best left alone. Here he's just a misunderstood wus who threatens Fagin for being mean to his dog.
The Gothic horror has been bled from Monks' character too, now just a regular upper middle class slimeball, although it's slightly concerning to see the BBC, even in the midst of its very best family-friendly clean up job, keeps a birthmark as a proof that he's born evil.
All in all, a washed out, soul-less load of tripe. This adaption might give the story more sense, but it thoroughly loses its soul.