A Review of The Personal History of David Copperfield

Before I get to the review — let me first mention the whole experience. I haven’t been to a movie in so long I can’t remember what the last one I saw was? I’ve seen several at home, on demand, streaming, etcetera etcetera etcetera but not at the theater.

They’ve been closed. Boarded up. Not open.

But now they are open again. We ventured out yesterday, Labor Day, and watched The Personal History of David Copperfield. Our party of six were the only ones in the theater, felt like a private screening. We did not buy snacks, and I kept my mask on the whole time.

I was unsure of going because I have been super cautious. Had the theater been crowded I probably would have felt differently, but with just us, there was no real danger at all. Now to the movie:

I loved it. I have to admit some of my love may have been the sheer giddiness of being in a movie theater again, but I think I am able to separate those emotions. I loved the movie.

Hugh Laurie, Dev Patel, and Tilda Swinson–DONKEYS!

David Copperfield is my favorite Dickens book, and I was very afraid they would mess it up. It is a long book filled with marvelous characters that have complicated relationships. The movie compresses a lot of this, for understandable reasons, but it perfectly captures the spirit of the book. Yes, they truncated Clara and really didn’t make Uriah Heep as awful as he was in the novel, but the feel of the book is there. Actually, none of the bad guys are as bad as they are in novel — not his stepfather, not his step-aunt Mrs. Murdstone, and not Steerforth, either. The movie softens all of those a bit. Perhaps that is because Dickens is so brutal.

My favorite part of the novel was the house with David’s Aunt, Mr. Dick, Janet, and the donkeys. I still remember laughing out loud when reading those parts and having Aunt Betsey shout, “What the Deuce?” Janet is reduced to mere ‘servant’ in the movie, but the feeling of that house is spot on. Mr. Dick, portrayed by Hugh Laurie, should be nominated for best supporting actor. He is amazing, as is Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber.

A decision was made to cast the movie completely multicultural regardless of part. All of those white British people being played by people of color who have white children or visa versa is refreshing. That is a choice that fits Dickens zeitgeist of social justice and calling into light the problems of the day. I adored Dev Patel’s performance as David. He seemed perfect for that role (as he seemed to be for Saroo in Lion — a movie that didn’t get proper respect, IMHO).

The movie is rated PG and is really safe for the whole family. I would like to see it nominated for best picture.


Everyone loves the classics, right?  Classic cars always draw a stare.  Classic rock-n-roll always brings smiles and tapping feet.  Everyone still loves Lucy.

I continue this morning with my Top Three Books series.  I kicked the series off last time with what I thought were the top three most influential books of all time.  Today, I come at you with what are my top three classic fiction books.  Let me define my term, though, before I get started.  By classic I mean a work of enough age that it has stood some test of time and has been recognized by multiple generations to be superior to its peers.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Truman Capote)

To Kill A Mockingbird Cover
I get goose bumps just seeing the cover

Mockingbird was the first novel I ever read that made me question my life and the injustice of the world I lived in.  It also forced me to identify with other people, particularly oppressed people.  I read the novel before I saw the movie, and have to say that as great as Gregory Peck is as Atticus Finch, the written words are far more powerful.

As you can tell by my heading, I don’t believe for a moment that Harper Lee wrote it.  She may have designed the plot or even brainstormed the characters but it was definitely her good friend and childhood buddy Capote who wrote it.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare

Many people would not even think that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s best work.  Romeo and Juliet gets more cultural thrift–with constant retellings (For a zombie Romeo and Juliet, see Warm Bodies) and King Lear is so pitied while Othello makes us all shiver with fear at our own jealousy but Hamlet, to me, is the best.  It is the bard at his epoch of creative power.  Most years I reread it during Lent for its themes of death and mortality.

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Dickens’ most famous novel is A Christmas Carol.  I like that one, and even wrote a tribute of sorts to it in my first book, but there is something about the character of David Copperfield that I identify with.  To my mind at least, Copperfield is more believable that Pip in Great Expectations and the book is far more enjoyable than A Tale of Two Cities, although A Tale of Two Cities has the greatest opening line ever.

Let me emphasize, again, these are my top three.  You can tell from the list that I lean toward British classics.  That is not because I haven’t read Dostoyevsky, Cervantes, or Hemingway, because I love them all a great deal.  It is simply that these three are at the top of my list.  I’ll resist the urge to expand the list, although, if I did, I’m quite certain that number four would be The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I’d be very interested to know what your top three classic fiction works are.


image from wikipedia