At the world premiere of director Armando Iannucci’s new film The Personal History of David Copperfield, he was asked by an audience member the reasoning behind his diverse casting choices. His response: ‘Why shouldn’t I draw from 100% of the acting community?’
As I sat to watch the film I kept thinking to myself, I’m glad I lived long enough to see such a diverse cast in an adaptation of a classic novel. Naysayers step aside. This take is refreshing and modern while staying true to the spirit of the original novel.
With a diverse cast we see an array of possibilities. And what a cast! Dev Patel is incredibly charming as David Copperfield. He brings an energy to the film that makes it electric. Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie are hilarious as Copperfield’s aunt and uncle Betsey Trotwood and Mr. Dick. Morfydd Clark plays both Copperfield’s mother and his love interest Dora. Ben Whishaw is creepy as all get out as the scheming Uriah Heep. Peter Capaldi is the lovable and perpetually broke scamp Mr. Micawber. Then there is Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes, Copperfield’s tough as nails best friend. Other notable cast members include Nikki Amuka-Bird as the proud and severe Mrs. Steerforth and Benedict Wong as the wine happy Mr. Wickfield. I was delighted to see Darren Boyd as the evil Edward Murdstone. He was in one of my favorite Britcoms Kiss Me Kate.
Just like in the novel David Copperfield is telling us his own story. At the start of the film, the older Copperfield inserts himself into the story of his younger self. We see set pieces drop away to reveal the next scene. This reminded me of similar techniques used in director Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina (2012) starring Keira Knightley. These aren’t used throughout the film mostly at the start and at the end. I would have liked to see more of them but they would have distracted from the more dramatic sequences.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a diverse retelling of Dickens’ novel that is clever, quirky, and hilarious and boasts a spectacular cast. Some critics have noted that it would have worked better as a miniseries or TV show. It did feel a bit too long but perhaps that was festival exhaustion kicking in. I for one am glad it’s a film. A miniseries might not have boasted such a wonderful cast of players.
The Personal History of David Copperfield had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival as part of their Special Presentations series.
The Wedding Guest
dir. Michael Winterbottom
starring Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh
It’s seems like a disservice to you, dear reader, for me to summarize the plot of this movie. The greatest joy I experienced while watching this film at TIFF was going into it knowing nothing. With no trailer and only a vague description, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I found myself enveloped in this world, not knowing what was going on or who these characters were or where this story was taking me. It was magical.
Jay (Dev Patel) is a mysterious traveler arriving in Pakistan for a wedding. He’s not your average wedding guest because he’s there to kidnap the bride Samira (Radhika Apte). Jay’s been hired by the bride’s secret Indian beau Deepesh (Jim Sarbh) to save her from an arranged marriage. When Jay kidnaps Samira, his carefully executed plan is thrown off by a nosy bodyguard who Jay has to kill to escape. When Jay tries to return Samira to Deepesh, things are not as they seem. As news of the bodyguard’s death and bride’s kidnapping spreads, Jay and Samira find themselves on the run.
Director Michael Winterbottom’s The Wedding Guest is shrouded in mystery. It draws the audience in, peeling back the layers of the story all the while holding us at arm’s length. I got lost in this world, in the setting, in the lives of Jay and Samira. And these characters are two of the most perplexing and enigmatic ones you’ll ever encounter on screen. Every time I learned something new about them, a morsel of information, it made me hungry for more. We don’t fully understand them but we’re willing participants in their game.
Patel and Apte deliver A+ performances. Sarbh doesn’t have a big role but he stands out as the shifty beau with a secret agenda. The film was shot in India and Pakistan with a small crew which gave the film a profound sense of realism (you feel like you’re right there with them) and also an intimacy. The movie is filled with really amazing cinematography and some great aerial shots courtesy of Giles Nuttgens.
The Wedding Guest is a superbly crafted mystery with terrific performances. Winterbottom is such a versatile director. Go see this one!
I attended the world premiere of The Wedding Guest at the Elgin Theatre as part of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Below is a Q&A with Winterbottom, Nuttgens, Patel and Apte. However it does have a major spoiler so I don’t recommend watching it until you’ve seen the film!