Little Dorrit Review

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The trials and tribulations of victorian seamstress Little Dorrit.


Those who dote on BBC serialisations of Dickens might love this ambitious, monumentally slow, careful Dickensian adaptation : certainly, the Yanks found it so worthy that screenwriter/director Christine Edzard was nominated for the Oscars.

Be warned, however, that this is faithful re-creation run riot. No matter how estimable, there are few films that warrant a running time of nearly five hours, and this, frankly, is snooze-inducing stuff. The saga of the seamstress Little Dorrit and kindly gentleman Arthur Clennam, presented in two parts, is predictably peopled with Great Brit Thesps playing the kinds of roles they could do standing on their heads: along with Derek Jacob! and Alec Guinness we have Max Wall, Cyril Cusack, Joan Greenwood, Robert Morley, Eleanor Bran and what looks suspiciously like Alan Bennett, all costumed to the gills and being touching, cruel or crazy. And it's all so very earnest that the satire in the novel has gone missing here, despite the clutch of preposterous names and exaggerated characters.

Part Two opens with the ominous line "This story must now be seen through Little Dorrit's eyes", whereupon - incredibly - everything that happened in Part One happens all over again but from different camera angles. The sanest approach is to skip Part One and you'll still be in the picture as the small Dorrit person grows up in debtor's prison, stoically soothes fevered brows all round and finally gets her man, all to the music of Verdi.

A cast that goes on forever and a running time to match.