Charles Dickens’ autobiographical 1849 novel is nicely reinterpreted by Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin) in a mostly light-hearted manner with wistful undercurrents. That makes it rather palatable even in today’s ever advanced and bustling climate.
The Personal History of David Copperfileld stars Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton among a capable, inclusive ensemble filled with eccentric types.
This visually clever adaptation involves sequences and flashbacks that may not be out of place in a Michel Gondry or Terry Gilliam affair in chronicling the ever-changing milieu of David (Jairaj Varsani, then Patel).
The atmosphere can suddenly shift, which includes a dramatic change in discourse that could be off-putting as the filmmaker instills some of his patented quick-witted temperament. Here it’s done with whirlwind cheerfulness, paring the antecedent (some 600 pages) down with omissions and composites but hardly lacking in vivacity or wit.
The picaresque includes sights at Yarmouth and Dover, for example, as the ups and downs include a mostly happy childhood with maid Miss Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper) at an inverted boathouse. Before attending Salem House boarding school and later ending up a London proctor.
From recollecting on the stage an adoration of literature is evident as inequality and poverty turn up as notable motifs with Peter Capaldi fashioning the indebted Mr. Micawber pungently enough to be a favorite of the director. “Something will turn up” appears to be his mantra.