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“THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD ” Comedy with Drama

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

A fascinating story, the film The Personal History of David Copperfield is filled with loony characters, adventure, excitement and fantasy. The acting by a well-balanced diverse cast really shines, and the direction by Armando Iannucci who keeps his film lively, creatively modern and touching at times, becomes a big payoff. Now in theaters across the country, seeing it on the big screen makes it even better.

(From L-R): Hugh Laurie, Dev Patel and Tilda Swinton in the film THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD. Photo by Dean Rogers. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

The film opens with David Copperfield (Dev Patel) addressing an audience about his life. Caught up in the death of his father and the re-marriage of his mother, David finds himself confused by this domineering new parent. His only comfort comes from his loving mother and when she has to choose between the boy and her husband’s demands, David gets shipped off to London to work in a bottling factory and live with strangers.

(From L-R): Tilda Swinton, Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie and Rosalind Eleazar in the film THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD. Photo by Dean Rogers. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

It’s a start of a life where David has to make choices, accept his new direction in life, get educated, use his ability to charm and become part of his new world. Writer and director Armando Iannucci takes David on a test of fortitude as he grows to become a man of means in spite of those who would use and abuse him along the way. Romance finally brings out his determination to succeed, even getting to the point of wealth. Throughout the ups and downs of David’s life we see some of the lunacy that Charles Dickens intended in this dramedy and that’s what makes the film a winner.

The whole cast really works well together to bring the story to life on the big screen. What makes this film special is the cast that gives brilliant performances as the whimsical characters that enter each scene. As young David Copperfield the choice of virtually unknown actor Jairaj Varsani is chancy, but brilliant. The young charmer does a terrific job of showing the wonder that David sees in the world as a boy that later in life finds his destiny. Varsani reminded me a lot of Sunny Pawar when he started his career in the film Lion. It’s the perfect role for this young man and if he can get noticed from it, we’ll be seeing more of him on the big screen.

Hugh Laurie and Dev Patel in the film THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD. Photo by Dean Rogers. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Dev Petel gives his normal best as David Copperfield making the role adventurous, comical at times and exciting. His David runs the gamut of a hard life filled with challenge, and while the film has a coming of age story, it’s also a fun journey that mixes heartwarming thoughtfulness with cleverness. Petel has had a fine career thus far with fine performances in Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lion, and Hotel Mumbai, to name a few.

But, for comedy there’s none better than Tilda Swinton as Betsy Trottwood who portrays David’s aunt that shows the character’s temperamental side. Crotchety and demanding it’s even hard to hold back a laugh in some of the dramatic scenes. Combined with the performance by Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, her demented charge, the two make a great couple who get caught up in David’s adventurous life.

Dev Patel, Rosalind Eleazar and Hugh Laurie in the film THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD. Photo by Dean Rogers. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The film has been rated PG by the MPAA for thematic material and brief violence. There is a fist fight or two, a bit of brutal slapping, comments of a sexual connotation, and other concerns, but not so cautionary in this day and age. Mature children that like a lot of nonsense and drama should have no problem watching the film that’s in theaters open in the USA. Check your local listings for a theater near you and check to see if they are observing covid-19 safety precautions.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A well-made film with very fun story with a lot of drama and adventure. (5 out of 5 stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton
Directed and written by: Armando Iannucci
Genre: Comedy, Drama
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material and brief violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.
Opening Date: August 28, 2020
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures
Released in: Theaters

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