"unhinged by its romantic premise and some doubtful plot twists"
Updating the classics for the kids is not always a great idea.Sometimes plot developments that seem acceptable when they're done-up in period drag don't quite wash in a modern setting. Mexican director Cuaron brings us a more than acceptable rendering of the Dickens classic, but suffers at the hands of the book's more fanciful elements.
Finn (Hawke, at various points sporting a wig, a moustache and the trademark goatee) is a wannabe artist living with his fisherman uncle (Cooper) who finds himself caught in the cross hairs of a crazy, man hating loon (Bancroft, doing her best Sunset Boulevard impersonation) and her stuck up, cock-tease niece Estella (Paltrow, who is starting to show the signs of an eating disorder).
An enigmatic convict (De Niro doing his best De Niro) further thickens the plot. While Hawke's character is an engaging hero, it's hard to believe that he could be so attracted to a rude, bony arsed snob like Paltrow. This central flaw weakens the film, making the entire premise a little wobbly.
It becomes impossible to support Hawke's quest for love when the object of it is such an unpleasant being. The director obviously can, because he indulges in so many tedious "tasteful" nude scenes with the actress. It only takes so long before watching a scrawny superstar drag her bare arse around becomes very boring.
These gripes aside, Great Expectations is still a stirring, involving film. The relationship between Finn and his uncle (played by the always excellent Cooper from Lone Star) gives it a sense of soul and feeling, and the lingering presence of De Niro adds a brooding air of unease.
Visually, the film is absolutely stunning, painting gorgeous images of Florida and New York. The wonderful artwork of Francesco Clemente (doubling for Finn's) adds to the visual beauty. Involving and pleasing to the eye, Great Expectations only becomes unhinged by its romantic premise and some doubtful plot twists.A good film that would have been better if they had left it in the past. ---Erin Free