Based on the classic 1850 novel by Charles Dickens, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” chronicles the tale of its title character, David Copperfield (Dev Patel). From his rough childhood into his romantic adulthood, the story is about the journey of a young man trying to pursue the life of a true gentleman in 19th Century London. Along the way, he’ll meet a wide cast of colorful characters, like his kind but eccentric Aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton), the constantly in debt Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi), or the even stranger Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie), a man who’s obsessed with the late Charles I.
This is going to be a tough nut to crack. I apologize for the rather brief synopsis, but this is a tricky story to breakdown. Like with many classic stories from the 19 Century, the bulk of this movie is more about the moral growth of the protagonist as the people he encounters shapes him into the man he becomes at the end. Sure, he faces issues to overcome and nefarious individuals who make his life difficult, but the main focus is on David Copperfield and the people he meets; which can be a mixed bag for some people. I prefer stories with a plot and focus, but for a comedic story likes this one, I feel it works. It never feels like we’re meeting the same character twice, and while some are only in the story for so long, they all leave an impact on David Copperfield in some manner.
This is not your typical comedy story, however. It’s not a movie riddled with prop falls, crude swearing or lewd behavior. Like the plot, the humor relies on the characters and the strange situations they throw our protagonist into. It’s kind of like watching a stage play, but in a motion picture. While I wasn’t laughing until I had tears in my eyes, the movie got a few chuckles out of me, especially Hugh Laurie for his wonderful depiction of the peculiar but kindhearted Mr. Dick.
All the other actors do fine with the roles they’re given, and I have to credit Dev Patel for his portrayal of David Copperfield. I found him enjoyable and both he and the story held my interest. I also have to comment on the set and prop design of the film. The film definitely captures the look and feel of 19 Century London—though the story never specifies the year. Still, this felt like a decent adaption of what had to be a tricky story to adapt.
“The Personal History of David Copperfield” is rated PG for thematic material and brief violence. Overall, if you’re interested in a lighthearted, whimsical, comedic-tale based on an old Charles Dickens story, I’d give it a look. However, if this kind of humor doesn’t meet your interest, then I’d recommend giving it a pass. The final score for “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is a 7.5 out of 10.
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.