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Great Expectations (1998)

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 21, 2000 | E-mail the Author
In Short: An enjoyable although not flawless drama, but a basic DVD from Fox.

The Movie:

A fairly awkward although stylish retelling of the Charles Dickens classic, director Alfonso Cuaron's vision of the story has its positive and negative aspects. I have to admit that when I first saw this film in theaters, I walked out of the theater, but on cable and video I've given the film a second chance. Although the first part of the film remains a little slow and dull, once it begins to get going, the performances do take the film along.

The film does contain a very memorable line for me; the main character, Finn(Ethan Hawke), says in a voiceover that "I'm not going to tell this story like it happened, I'm going to tell it as I remember it." There are times in all our lives where our emotions and viewpoint sculpt how we view our past events. Hawke stars as Finn, who falls in love with Estella(Gwyneth Paltrow), a girl who remains unfeeling to the world and those around her. She is the niece of old Mrs. Dismoor, played in an over-the-top performance that's more creepy than it is entertaining by Anne Bancroft. In a film that feels cold and subtle, her performance feels like it's coming from a different movie altogether. Robert Deniro has a fine performance as the criminal who finds his way in and out of Finn's life.

The story starts off with the young couple meeting as children, then moves onward to New York City, where Finn has become an artist and Estella has found Walter(played by Hank Azaria). Even through his success in the New York art world, Finn can't stop thinking about Estella, as she appears unexpectedly throughout his days in the city. The performances by both Hawke and Paltrow are quite good, although Paltrow comes off as being overly icy. It's a modern day fairy tale - a little slow at times, but with interesting performances and a fine style by director Alfonso Cuaron. One just wish it could be more involving, and stronger emotionally.

The DVD

VIDEO: For the second time in a week, Fox has done a very, very strong job with a title that's a couple of years old. First it was French Kiss, now Fox has done a fine, although not quite flawless job with "Great Expecations". Images are adequately sharp, definitely clear and has strong detail. The film has some gorgeous colors; greens, blues, reds - colors are natural and rich, especially in scenes like when the two meet in the park in chapter 11 and especially 15.

Flaws are very minor; some trace amounts of shimmering that aren't terribly distracting and although the picture is certainly sharp, it's not razor sharp. A slight mark or two pop up, but aren't major. Either way, the picture is a very smooth, pleasing image that is another good, although not perfect work from Fox.

SOUND: The audio is as subtle as the movie, and I actually quite enjoyed it. The surrounds are used for a lot of soft, subtle sounds and create a convincing environment. The music, full of alternative rock tunes comes through crisp and clear, sounding well-recorded and strong. Dialogue is clear and easily understood. Not agressive at all, but I was pleased at how it sounded.

MENUS:: Nicely done animated main menus that play the score in the background.

EXTRAS:Trailers for French Kiss, Great Expectations, One Fine Day, Picture Perfect, Ever After, Cousin Bette and Never Been Kissed



Final Thoughts A good rental.

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