Wednesday, March 13, 2013

[Classics Movie] Little Dorrit

This BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel Little Dorrit was adapted to miniseries by Andrew Davies. Although they were rather long—for the novel is very long too—I have enjoyed it. This is the second time I watched Dickens’ adaptation by BBC, which I like for their original setting. As usual, I am breaking down my opinion of this miniseries in this review,


Overall, I don’t have many complaints for the castings. For Amy Dorrit, I preferred her in the miniseries; she looks stronger and more natural than in the book. I imagine that a young girl should obtain such qualities under poverty and hard times. Amy in the book seems too delicate, just as characters in tales. Claire Foy’s blue eyes, sweet face, and of course, brilliant acting, are really the main attraction of this miniseries.

Matthew MacFadyen is indeed a perfect cast to play the melancholy Arthur Clennam, a man of forty who thought he was too old for Amy and was beyond his age for romance. His reaction when John made him (Arthur) realized that Amy loved him, was superb. Mrs. Clennam and William Dorrit also reflect what I imagined from the book. My favorite is, perhaps, Mrs. Merdle; the actress can play the beautiful, haughty and hypocrite lady in a perfect manner. Rigaud or Blandois also fits my imagination from the book; his singing the French chant is really memorable, although for they who listened to it in the story, it must be a thrilling experience. 

Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit

The only one who did not match the book at all is Cavalletto. Cavalletto in the miniseries is too ‘handsome’, while in the book he was described as quite plump and comical. But who can complain about that, as James Thorpe—an English comedian—could play the character very well? 

James Thorpe as Cavalletto

Oh, and there is also Henry Gowan. I didn’t like him in the book, but I think Henry is, in the miniseries, the most attractive male character of all…..

Alex Wyndham as Henry Gowan

Story and Plot

Mostly, the plot follows the book; but there is a crucial part in it that has been altered, I don’t know for what reason. It is about Mrs. Clennam’s secret. In the book, the uncle of Mr. Clennam (Arthur’s father), following his sympathy towards Arthur’s real mother who was at that time already dead, inherited a sum of money to the youngest daughter of Arthur’s mother’s music teacher, who was Frederick Dorrit, or—if he didn’t have a daughter—the youngest daughter of his brother. In the miniseries, it was confusedly altered so that people would think that Amy and Arthur were relatives. This, I think, a fatal failure. The script writer might have adopted that alteration to make the plot less confusing, but at the end, it would confuse you more!

One more thing, here Amy revealed Mrs. Clennam’s secret to Arthur by showing him the document which Rigaud would like to sell to Mrs. Clennam; while in the book Arthur never knew the secret and because of that, never have to forgive the woman he thought was his mother, for Amy asked him to burn the letter which he never knew the content. In this case, I like the miniseries version, because I believe Arthur deserved to know about it, and Amy did not have the right to hide it from him. How can you start a marriage life with a lie?

Setting and Costumes

The Marshalsea is just a debtor prison as I have imagined from the book, as well as the old and fragile Clennams’ house. The atmosphere reflects both despair and bitter hatred of the inhabitants. Especially in William Dorrit’s room, I can feel the warmer atmosphere, which I believe was brought by the loving character of Amy. The glimpses of the Dorrits’ journey to Italy and Rome are quite entertaining, although I hoped more of the snowy Alps and the Great St. Bernard Hospice scenes.

Part of the characters in Little Dorrit in front of Clennam's house set

About the costumes, one that was annoying me was Fanny Dorrit’s. Really, must dancers in 19th century put a weird make up like that? Watching Fanny Dorrit’s lips reminded me of a Geisha! I liked her much better when she has no make up at all, at the bedtime scene with Amy; there she was much prettier. Or maybe they wanted to point up Fanny’s bad temper by making her lips so thin? But still, you can do that by acting, not solely by the lips shape!

Emma Pierson as Fanny Dorrit

In the book, Amy returned to Marshalsea to visit her beloved Arthur, wearing her old dress when she was still a poor girl. This detail did not appear in the miniseries, although I think it’s not just about dress, but more to emphasizing Amy’s feeling, that poverty suited her much better than richness; so I think it’s important that Amy appeared in that scene in her old dress.

One thing that annoyed me is the ending. The ending was much different from the book, and I think, did not fit at all with the whole story. I don’t know why BBC must put a typical ‘happily-ever-after’ scene with all the confetti, colorful dresses, and cheerful celebration to describe Amy-Arthur’s wedding. After the dress, now the wedding, one would think that Amy is Cinderella! If we know Amy very well, we should know that—despite of her richness phase of life—she was still the timid and simple young woman who attended the more essential things in life, and who despised being a lady. I think, to be fit with Amy’s character, the ending should follow the book’s, where Amy and Arthur went to the Church and registered their marriage, then left it hand in hand in silent, savoring the happiness as husband and wife by themselves. That would be a perfect touching and memorable ending!

For all that, I granted 6.5 of 10 stars for this Little Dorrit BBC miniseries.


  1. I've never read the book, but I did enjoy watching the movie with my husband. :)

    Nice review!

    1. The book is a bit more tedious than the movie, but it's still worth to read (I just skipped passages about Circumlocution Office which is very boring!)

  2. Wah, makasih rekomendasinya. Aku lagi demen sama drama miniseries hisfic-classic BBC nih mba Fanda :D

    1. Oh ya? Kamu punya DVD yg mana aja Ky? Pinjem doong... #modus

    2. Bikin reviewnya dong Ky... ntar aku komen & bisa nebeng fangirling #eh #loh

  3. I thought they did a fantastic job with Little Dorrit. I saw the miniseries before reading the book. (I find that I enjoy Dickens books more when I see the movie first, anyway...) And as soon as I finished watching this, I read the book AND made my mom watch the miniseries. :)

    1. Maybe you have a point here, reading the books before watching the movie only makes you detesting the movie, but doing the other way round would make you appreciate the book more. Hmm...maybe I should try it?

  4. After reading this review I agree with you about the ending. When I watched it I have no objection at first, because they made it so funny with Mrs Plornish & Cavaletto talking "she IS very beautiful" in Italian accent. But it was so typical happily-ever-after ending that I think they should have made it in a different way.

    As for the book, I have no intentions to read it until now, I think watching the miniseries is enough for me... *pardon me Mr. Dickens!*

    1. Glad you agree! I hated that part, and it's the ending part too, which we suppose to memorize the more. ugh...
      About the book, I think The Old Curiosity Shop would be more suitable for you :D

  5. Mmm...this miniseries also have several differences than the original story ? Well, i quite like the story at the beginning and the end, in the middle I just got angry with William Dorrit and becoming impatient with Amy who plays such unagressive girl, while Fanny ... well, it's Fanny :D (agree with the make-up and attitude, just like geisha, but I get more respect on geisha than Fanny). I watch this with my sister and she falls a sleep during the movies (I quote her : 'just plain boring and tooooo ... longgg')
    I just glad it's end with happy ending. You know Amy Dorrit reminds me a little bit like Jane Eyre, but I will prefer Jane Eyre above Little Dorrit.

    1. Amy here is quite moderate, I think. She's a bit more 'delicate' in the book though. Compared to other Dickens' characters, Amy is much similar to Little Nell (Old Curiosity Shop), but Nell is more passive.


What do you think?