Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Dorrit Review (Part Two)

So in my last post, I went over some of the main characters, but in this one I will briefly describe a few of the secondary ones and then get to the good stuff. :P

And boy, are there a lot of secondary characters.  (This really amazes me, because as we all know it was very difficult for Charles Dickens to come up with characters for his novels and his trademark was to have only one or two people in each story. *cough*)  There's old Mrs. Clennam, a cold and domineering who treated Arthur harshly as a child and will never confess that she might have been wrong. There's Flintwinch, the ugly and mysterious butler at the House of Clennam, and his won't-say-boo-to-a-goose wife Affery. There's Mr. and Mrs. Merdle, Edmund's mother and stepfather, at the top of London society... but not quite what they seem.
Amanda Redman and Tom Courtenay as Mrs. Merdle and Mr. Dorrit
Frederick Dorrit (doormat brother of William Dorrit), Tip Dorrit (ne'er-do-well brother of Fanny and Amy), Daniel Doyce (inventor and business partner with Arthur), Tattycoram (put-upon charity child, brought up by Arthur's friends the Meagles), Miss Wade (bitter and mysterious woman who holds the secret of Arthur's past) Maggy (sweet, mentally handicapped friend of Little Dorrit), Cavaletto (friendly but frightened former cellmate of Blandois, adopted by the Plornish family of Bleeding Heart Yard), Mrs. General (gentlewoman hired to be a companion and teacher for Fanny and Amy when they become rich) and Flora Finching (once Arthur's sweetheart, now determined to woo him back) all play a role in the captivating story.

Ruth Jones as Flora Finching
Oh, and Mr. F's Aunt. We must not forget her. She really has no bearing on the story except as comic relief. Flora's first husband, Mr. Finching, left his aunt as a legacy to Flora. Flora, fluttery but loyal, takes Mr. F's eccentric Aunt under her wing--and with a grain of salt.

Annette Crosbie as Mr. F's Aunt,
Matthew Macfadyen asArthur Clennam
The scene pictured above is nothing short of EPIC.  "'E's got a proud stomach, this chap. Give 'im a meal of chaff."

I love how familial relationships are portrayed in this movie.  Poor Little Dorrit has just about the most awful family in the world (at least, it seems so at first).  Her father, brother and sister all consider her to be not quite as good as they, and consequently frequently berate her for "disgracing" the family because she is not ashamed of being poor.  "Good gracious, Amy! You're always showing us up!" 

Amy and Mr. Dorrit
And yet Amy is never resentful towards her family.  Her father, who has dubbed himself the Father of the Marshalsea, will never cease to consider himself a gentleman (though he's not above subtly asking visitors to leave a "small testimonial"). Yet once he is liberated from prison and allowed to live as a gentleman, he exists in constant fear that someone will discover his past... and all this fear is wrapped up in his increasing dementia.

The Dorrits leave the Marshalsea prison
Fanny Dorrit and Tip Dorrit are more harsh in their treatment of their sister, though as the movie progresses Fanny's attitude toward Amy becomes more gentle.  "Here's a little gift from your wicked sister.  There. That'll brighten you up a bit, you little mouse."  (One of my friends calls me "little mouse" too. :))

Now, I'm really going to be random and just bombard you with a lot of pictures and general, unconnected remarks about Stuff I Like.

We call this hat "Arthur's ugly hat". No, no, really, we like it. That's just a germ of endearment, as Peter of The Railway Children would say.

I think I may have forgotten to mention how much I like John's father, Mr. Chivery, the head turnkey at the Marshalsea.  He is one of the real heroes of the story.  When Amy rejects John's proposal, Mr. Chivery is almost as crushed as his son, yet he doesn't, well, mope about it.  (Oops, the Anne-girl just threw her copy of the book at me... I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say anything bad about John, I promise!)  *SPOILER ALERT* When Arthur is sent to the Marshalsea near the end of the movie and becomes ill, it's Mr. Chivery who writes to Amy and asks her to come and nurse Arthur.  He knows perfectly well that Arthur is the man who, in essence, ruined his son's chance at happiness (because Little Dorrit was in love with Arthur--pray excuse me, Doyce and Clennam--, you know, and therefore wouldn't marry John), but, like his son, "he don't bear no malice."

Ron Cook and Russell Tovey as Mr. Chivery and John Chivery
Once the Dorrits become rich and bounce off to Venice to spend their newly acquired cash, Mr. Dorrit is adamant that his daughters be made presentable to Society (with a capital S).  In order to do this he hires a Most Respectable Gentlewoman by the name of Hortensia General.   Mrs. General bulldozes her way into the Dorrit family and causes Fanny and Amy a great deal of distress.  Amy tries to cope with it, but Fanny will not be pushed around, and the result is quite hilarious.

"I think that if I see another painting I might very well have to scream, Mrs. General!"
"I'm quite sure you'd do nothing so un-ladylike."
"Don't count on it."

Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, prisms and Pam Ferris as Mrs. G.
And then there are all the other little bits I love... the little bits that I can't really talk about for fear of spoiling the end.  The heartwrenching deaths of a couple of characters (no, not Uncle Ned, he's already dead remember?), a highly amusing wedding, Structural Difficulties in a Very Old Building, financial upheaval, secrets, lost wills, Crime Does Not Pay, very bad wine, sacrifices and at long last a highly satisfactory wedding at the end.

I don't mind saying that because, hey, y'all know they get married in the end, right? RIGHT??

The wedding scene, the last in the movie, contains some of the best lines in the movie:
"Ah, don't cry at a wedding, Mama Meagles!" (easy for you to say)... "Sparkler, BE quiet".... "She is very beautiful.  Si.  That's what I said".... and then finally the closing music and the rolling credits.

I love this movie.

(I also love this trailer.  I didn't make it, but I thought you might like to see it.)

So! If you haven't yet seen LD, do you plan to?  If you have seen it, what did I leave out of this review?  What quotes deserve to be in Quote of the Week?  Did I forget any of the characters?  Leave a comment!
(and if you haven't seen LD and don't want spoilers... read the comments with discretion. :D


Miss Dashwood said...

Okay, so let's talk spoilers! Wouldn't you agree that the scene where the Dorrits leave the Marshalsea is almost as sad as the scene with Mr. Dorrit's death?

I can never decide if I pity or hate Fanny--but in that scene, when she yanks down the carriage curtain (0:59 in the video) I wouldn't mind landing a high kick right in her silly astonished face.

Anybody with me?

Anne-girl said...

Mrs Gowan anyone? Tite Barnacle Jr.?

You can't just come in and say you want to KNOW you know.

Stephanie said...

Thanks to you, I plan to read and watch this lovely story! Otherwise I always hide Dickens away, and avoid him.

Melody said...

Haha! Your things in small print always make me laugh. =D Really, you can say accindentally bad things about John to me and I won't mind. :P

YES YES YES! I hate it when Fanny pulls down the curtain! I remember watching it for the first time and I was waiting for my mom so I watched the menu play over and over (bad me) and it had that scene...and made me very curious, and already annoyed with Fanny. :P

I'm going to watch that trailer...but we have to go... but I will watch it, because you know me and my trailers. o.O

Alexandra said...

Just got this from the library...can't wait to see it...

And I had to laugh at your comment...

(This really amazes me, because as we all know it was very difficult for Charles Dickens to come up with characters for his novels and his trademark was to have only one or two people in each story. *cough*)

I was sitting there scratching my head and going, huh? Dickens always had *tons* of characters...and then realized the sarcasm. Yeah, it's been one of those days. :-)

Lauren said...

I'm now in the mood to watch this again...but that requires setting aside and entire day;) I go back and forth between despising Fanny, and feeling really sorry for her. The scene where she and Amy are talking, and she doesn't have her horrid makeup on makes me like her more! Enjoyed your review:)

Jessica said...

Does anyone else think that the relationship between Miss Wade and Tattycorum smacks of creepiness? Ha Miss Wade is just so creepy to me. I'm not quite sure what to make her.
I'm watching LD for the second time currently.

Mykaela said...

I watched LD with my parents about a year ago or so...I really liked it! Dicken's stories do have a certain...I don't know..strangeness about them. Like seriously, what's the purpose of having an imbecilic character like "Mr. F's Aunt" in there?? Anyway, I LOVED the wedding!! That's got to be my fave next to P&P. Thanks for the review, you brought all the "wonderfulnesses" of this movie back to my memory in a "no-nonsense" sort of way! ;)

Hayden said...

"She is very beautiful. Si..."

haha We were quoting those same lines in the car today. And we also were actually counting all the characters we could think of in Little Dorrit. (We were wondering how many actors would be needed to perform it onstage)

Anyway, the character I really can't stand is Mr. Dorrit. Even more than Fanny. Yes, even more than Fanny. *ducking now* He just annoys me SO much!

But Harrison, Emily and I all feel sorry for John. Harry refers to him as "poor John" :) Although, when pressed, he then admitted that Edmund Sparkler was his favorite character....

Miss Dashwood said...

*trying hard to ignore that last phrase... trying... not succeeding... oh what's the use!!*
You simply must give Dickens another chance. He is such a masterful writer and his stories just teem with, well, LIFE. He wrote so realistically and wonderfully... I am so glad you've consented to try LD, for I know you will love it! And I saw Bleak House on your list as well... that one is SO good!

Well, yes, I might be able to say them to you, but do remember that Sister Dear reads this blog too. If I want to say uncomplimentary things (hah!) about J, I can just e-mail you. :P
Perhaps someday you will tour the country in a trailer since you love them so much! My parents have always wanted to do that.

A CONVERT! Hooray! I cannot promise that you'll like LD as much as TSP, but I do promise that you'll be a sobbing puddle of ilovedthat when it's over. :)
Heehee, maybe I should employ a sarcasm font so that people will know when I'm being "witty". :)

Melody said...

But...there are no words in that trailer....o.O

Miss Dashwood said...

When my sister and I watched it, we saw a few episodes each evening, so we spread it out over an entire week. I liked doing it that way because it extended the enjoyment. :)

Thanks for your comment! I've enjoyed looking at your blog. I agree, Miss Wade's relationship with Tattycoram is quite creepy... but then everything about Miss Wade is creepy, IMHO.

I think Mr. F's Aunt is just there to brighten up some scenes that might be somber. I know she always gives me a laugh. :) It can't be said that she has no nonsense about HER though...

How many did you come up with? I can't imagine this being performed onstage... it would be an immense production! (But really neat.) I get so mad at Mr. D too--- but then I feel SO bad when he dies.

I know, it's just music and video, but I liked it. :P

Hayden said...

Gosh, we only got through counting the women, and there were seriously, like, twenty. We didn't even try counting the men! :)

Elizabeth said...

Dear Miss Dashwood,
I've been meaning to tell you for ever so long that I am so inexpresably happy you have posted this review!!!! (in 2 parts too!) Little Dorrit has now become my obsession (although I have not seen it) and your review on the movie has greatly enlightened me when it comes to the plot, characters, etc. Thank you so, so much for posting this! :) I am now completely determined to watch this soon... I am already giggling like crazy over Sparkler, and scowling at Rigaud, and sighing over Arthur and Amy...

Oh, my dear me, I don't know how long i can wait...I so long to see it now!!! :)

Joni said...

I fall squarely on the side of liking Fanny. She is so hilariously snarky, and honestly, Amy's goodness must be really irritating to her nearest and dearest. The way I see it, much of what Fanny does - from lowering the curtain to marrying Sparkler - is her way of making sure the Marshalsea remains in the past - but it casts a long shadow I'll wager.

On the subject of Sparkler - HE IS ADORABLE. I love his besottedness, and I love how he (finally) takes charge at the very end and handles the crazy, high-maintenance women in his life. Dickens basically wrote them off with "They had an unhappy marriage. The end" but my personal headcanon is that Edmund and Fanny finally came to love and (more to the point) appreciate each other in the end.

Miss Dashwood said...

You have a good point there! I get frustrated with Fanny quite easily, but I can see how she's trying to erase her past and make things better, not only for herself but for her family as well. The problem is, neither she nor any other Dorrit really understands Amy--they want to make her into something she's not--and so there's Lots and Lots of Tension.

I love Sparkler. He's probably my favorite Dickens character ever. :) Yes, I agree, I hope he and Fanny had a happy ending--really, I don't see how he, at least, could have anything else. Fanny gets mad at him a lot, but I think deep down she's quite fond of him.

Miss Elliot said...

I was reading a biography of Dickens after reading this review and things began to match up: Dickens had a sister named Fanny, and for a time his father was imprisoned in the Marshalsea prison. I just thought that would be interesting. Cheerio!

Miss Elliot said...

YAY, SOMEONE ELSE READS E. NESBIT BOOKS!!!! I thought I was alone, but I was wrong. I LOVE her books!!