Bleak House

Bleak House

4.7 21
Director: Justin Chadwick, Susanna White

Cast: Justin Chadwick, Susanna White, Gillian Anderson, Patrick Kennedy

     
 

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A trio of orphans becomes embroiled in a mysterious and long-running lawsuit in this sprawling BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. A legend in the legal circles of Victorian London, the messy inheritance case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been trickling through the courts for years with no end in sight. Nobleman John Jarndyce (DenisSee more details below

Overview

A trio of orphans becomes embroiled in a mysterious and long-running lawsuit in this sprawling BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. A legend in the legal circles of Victorian London, the messy inheritance case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been trickling through the courts for years with no end in sight. Nobleman John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson) has seen the case destroy more than one life, so when he becomes guardian to three young people -- beautiful Ada Clare (Carey Mulligan), Ada's cousin Richard Carstone (Patrick Kennedy), and her devoted companion, Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell Martin) -- he vows to shield them from its pernicious effects by bringing them to the safety of his estate, the eponymous Bleak House. Richard, however, becomes obsessed with the unattainable Jarndyce inheritance, to the detriment of his career and mental health. Esther, meanwhile, remains haunted by her origins; the product of a scandalous pregnancy, she was raised by her aunt and knows nothing about her dead mother's identity. Meanwhile, imperious noblewoman Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson) plots to hide the evidence of her own mysterious past -- a quest that leads her to the intrigue surrounding Jarndyce and Jarndyce. She is but one of dozens of characters who find themselves drawn into the lawsuit's web of corruption, blackmail, and murder. Bleak House debuted October 27, 2005, on BBC One. It received its U.S. premiere on January 22, 2006, on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, where the 15 British episodes were combined into six longer blocks. Britain's Royal Television Society named the series Best Drama Serial of 2005. A previous adaptation of Dickens' novel ran on Masterpiece Theatre in 1985.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A seemingly interminable lawsuit has mid-19th-century English high society all a-twitter, and its labyrinthine complications envelop a good many people. Among them is a brittle beauty, Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson), who guards a dark secret that makes her vulnerable to Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance), an unscrupulous, scheming lawyer. In recent decades Charles Dickens's Bleak House has become recognized as the true progenitor of the classic detective novel (an honor previously bestowed upon Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone), and in every way this marvelous BBC drama does justice to the original story. To begin with, it's been structured like an old-fashioned movie serial: 15 episodes, all but one a half hour in length. The novel's enormous "cast" has been retained, and the screenwriters have done an admirable job of giving the various characters their proper prominence in the narrative -- something that could never have been done in a two-hour feature film. The acting is beyond reproach; even the smallest part is played with perfect pitch, with Anderson (almost unrecognizable to fans as The X-Files' Dana Scully) and Dance being particularly effective among the principal players. Period décor has been perfectly captured, and careful lighting enhances the vaguely gothic atmosphere that makes the story nice and creepy. Telecast in the U.S. in early 2006 on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, this elaborate production is a triumph from beginning to end.
All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Enlivened by top-flight British character acting and an admirably nuanced performance from Gillian Anderson, this labyrinthine Charles Dickens adaptation seems neither rushed nor overstuffed -- a major achievement considering the epic source material. Although it functions as a deconstruction of the Victorian class and legal systems, Bleak House is, above all, a compelling story. Combining elements of mystery, drama, comedy, and romance, producer Nigel Stafford-Clark weaves dozens of characters and countless interlocking subplots into a nearly seamless tapestry. Like most Victorian fiction, the original novel was serialized, and Stafford-Clark retains that structure in 15 episodes whose time constraints and cliffhanger endings lend shape to what could have been a sprawling mess. As the imperious yet conflicted Lady Dedlock, Anderson betters her previous stellar work in the Edith Wharton adaptation House of Mirth; yet she's only one light among many. The real discovery is Anna Maxwell Martin, whose turn as Esther Summerson, the moral center of the story, never devolves into a virtuous Victorian stereotype. Eight hours long, Bleak House requires a bit of an investment, but the dividends are worth it.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/05/2009
UPC:
0883929042562
Original Release:
2005
Rating:
NR
Source:
Bbc Warner
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
7:45:00
Sales rank:
56,510

Special Features

Interviews with Gillian Anderson, Denis Lawson and Charles Dance; Commentaries with writer Andrew Davies, producer Nigel Stafford-Clark and directors Justin Chadwick and Susanna White; Photo gallery

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gillian Anderson Lady Dedlock,Actress
Patrick Kennedy Richard Carstone
Carey Mulligan Actor
Nathaniel Parker Actor
Sevan Stephan Mr. Tangle
Alistair McGowan Mr. Kenge
Burn Gorman Guppy
Charles Dance Mr. Tulkinghorn
Denis Lawson John Jarndyce
Anna Maxwell Martin Esther Summerson
Timothy West Sir Leicester
Patrick Kennedy Actor

Technical Credits
Justin Chadwick Director
Susanna White Director
Andrew Davies Screenwriter
Rebecca Eaton Executive Producer
Simon Elliot Production Designer
Sally Haynes Executive Producer
Kate Rhodes James Casting
Paul Knight Editor
John Lunn Score Composer
Laura Mackie Executive Producer
Kieran McGuigan Cinematographer
Nigel Stafford-Clark Producer

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