'The Personal History Of David Copperfield' With Casey
Writer-director Armando Iannucci has proven himself an exciting creator of raucous, vulgar, profane comedy with the dark historical parody The Death of Stalin from 2017 and the brilliantly insulting TV series Veep (2012-2019) which concluded last year. His latest film is still funny, but with a PG rating The Personal History of David Copperfield is decidedly less obscene than Iannucci's other work.
Based on the Charles Dickens tale first published as a novel in 1850, the film follows the coming-of-age rags-to-riches story of a hopeful boy meandering to different homes and living with different families while growing up in England. Now the David Copperfield story has been adapted many times for film and TV throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. (Specifically, the David Copperfield novel has been adapted into three feature-length films, one short film, five TV movies, and nine TV series or singular episodes.) But this new version injects plenty of playfulness and heart from the original novel to make it a friendly and visually rich treat.
The color-blind casting, whimsical scene transitions, and carefully adapted dialogue give the film an energetic and contemporary theatricality which only sags a bit in the middle. The humor is delightfully droll, awkward, and capricious ensuring at least a few laughs from viewers of any age. The film obviously paints a picture of 19th century poverty that is far too cheery and sanitized, but its particular sense of whimsy makes the film memorable and entertaining. And the whimsy is smartly balanced with moments of (albeit shallow) emotional sincerity which helps the journey of the whole film feel more dynamic. Turns out Iannucci can even make classic literature adaptations feel comical and current.
It's not my favorite film treat to snack on this summer, but it was still fun to take a bite.