Review: 'The Personal History of David Copperfield' is a wondrous escape

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

The Personal History of David Copperfield
4 out of 5 Stars
Armando Iannucci
Writer: Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Charles Dickens (novel)
Starring: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG for thematic material and brief violence.

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: The adventures of David Copperfield, an aspiring writer who takes the trials and joys of his life and transforms them into a slightly-exaggerated yarn.

Review: Based on the novel “The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)” (a title that better describes the general tone of the book better than a dozen paragraphs could), by Charles Dickens, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is a delightful surprise that is caught somewhere between Tim Burton’s adaptation of “Big Fish” and Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” It’s vivid, imaginative and more than a little bit bonkers in the best possible way.

The film begins with David Copperfield addressing an audience, recounting the tale of his life, his struggles and his triumphs and the in-between stories that inspired his popular novel. We’re taken all the way back to Copperfield’s birth, his joyous times in his nanny’s family’s boathouse, the disintegration of that happiness when he returned home to discover his mother had remarried and his rise from the ashes, numerous times. It’s whimsical, magical and tragic at the same time.

The cast, which includes the likes of Dev Patel, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, and Gwendoline Christie, take to their roles with the perfect amount of zest and absurdity. There’s plenty of scenery to chew, but no one takes a bite larger than their share.

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and I don’t remember there being much of a buzz surrounding the film. Frankly, I’m shocked. I went into the film passively but left fully invested. It was a delightful experience from start to finish. A wondrous journey that I plan to revisit.

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