Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too.

Best of all here is Dev Patel, absolute charm personified as Copperfield, revelling in the metatextual nature of the role that Iannucci has fashioned and aided wonderfully by Ranveer Jaiswal and Jairaj Varsani as younger versions of himself. I don’t think that you can argue that for someone who is a BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominee, Patel’s career has been afforded the opportunities of a Cumberbatch, a Redmayne, a Law etc so on that basis alone, giving this personable actor such a showcase just adds the film’s overall irresistible nature.   

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