8 December 2008 | LouE15
Great dramatisation of Dickens' story of debt and greed...and desire
Oh, I do love a good period drama
I got interested enough after one episode of this to re-read the book for the first time in 10 years, and was impressed by how very dark and cynical Dickens' tone is. The show is well-shot and well made, and does the book justice in almost every way. The only thing which is so far slightly lost is the cynicism: the staggering incompetence and idleness of the Circumlocution Office is meant to be an attack on the whole governmental administration system. Likewise, the inordinate raising up of one person above others on a great balloon of hot air, and the great, national disgrace that was the imprisonment of whole families for debt. The intensity of the satire is missing which is a great shame, since a central part of the story finds its perfect parallel in events unfolding both in this country and elsewhere right now. That was a missed opportunity but I suspect the show wouldn't have attracted such ready funding and promotion if it laid the satire on too thick at the expense of say, the costumes (yawn).
The casting is excellent, and it seems almost unfair to single out individuals from the list, including Judy Parfitt's cold Mrs Clennam, Tom Courtenay's vain, haunted Mr Dorrit, Russell Tovey's charmingly emotional young Chivery, Claire Foy's delicate, youthful Amy and Matthew McFadyen's kind-hearted, generous Arthur. Ruth Jones' wondrous recreation of the voluminous Flora is bettered only by Annette Crosbie's frankly terrifying Aunt. (She's how I want to be when I get old!) I'd been disappointed by McFadyen's Mr Darcy in the Joe Wright film "Pride & Prejudice" - it was almost at times as if he had been stuffed, and his looks were somehow lost in the mix. Here all his best attributes are to the fore his eyes, his height, his voice and manner, the excellence of his diction all these create a warm, breathing man out of really quite flimsy material. In the book and even in this dramatisation, Arthur is a rather shadowy presence, on the sidelines while things happen to those around him. Yet his appearance each week is like a beacon, a feeling of warmth, like home.
Claire Foy does a really wonderful job as the title character. Dickens' heroines used to drive me mad so tiny and blushing and always so very, irritatingly good, drat them. Foy manages to be all of these things, but to be likable too, and I very much admire her for it. The way she looks at her father half with love, half with pity is spot on. Tom Courtenay is brilliant I can't imagine anyone else being able to bring so much to the character of this foolish, vain, blind Mr Dorritt. I kept missing episodes and having to watch them on the (BBC's excellent i-player) catch up site. Now I've at last seen the final episode I think it's sadly rushed, missing a few voyeuristic opportunities for catching up on some of the minor characters seen in the series. However the scenes between John Chivery, Arthur and Amy are moving and beautifully handled. I will definitely be getting hold of the DVD. This one's a keeper.