Much like his previous works ‘In the Loop’ and ‘The Death of Stalin’ Writer/Director Armando Iannucci coats his latest comedy-drama with the surreal humour that has become his hallmark. However, where the former entries focused on political manipulations and power struggles for they’re absurd hilarity, David Copperfield has a much more whimsical and warm feeling attached to it. A personal story of struggle and success while being hilariously bizarre and ultimately, uplifting.
Being adapted from Charles Dickens 1850 book, Iannucci has managed to stay true to the source material while lacing the story with a refreshing modern feel. In large part thanks to the subtly clever and witty script, delivered impeccably from a uniformly excellent cast clearly having fun with their roles. Dev Patel, as the titular character, is both charming and likable as we follow him through the hardships and high points of his life , such as going from an idyllic childhood in the countryside to the poverty and grime in the city. Copperfield’s story is swimming with an eclectic cast of characters, brought to life by a who’s who of British talent. Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton stand out as Davids estranged relatives Mr Dick and Betsy Trotwood. Laurie in particular really gives a masterclass in delivering dry subtle humour with a hint of absurdity and wide eyed innocence that he perfected in the 80’s with ‘Blackadder’ . Peter Capaldi is delightful as lovable chancer Mr Micawber, channeling a Dickensian Willy Wonka with bad credit. Ben Whishaw, Benedict Wong, Daisy May Cooper, Gwendoline Christie and Aneurin Barnard are also among the stellar cast who inject the story with equal parts fun and class. Yet the star is undoubtedly Patel in the leading role. He lets his comedic ability come to the fore while still managing to emphasize and deliver the appropriate emotional beats during the films more honest moments.
Overall ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ is an immensely joyous and entertaining film. It speeds along at a brisk pace but never feels underdeveloped. Despite the vast array of characters, none suffer from being too one dimensional and the music is fantastically uplifting which adds even more emotional weight to proceedings. An intelligent, razor sharp script and fantastic performances combine to make this an enjoyable and fun piece of work that should have something for everyone. After the more bitingly sarcastic tones of his earlier work. It’s nice to see Armando Iannucci still knock it out of the park with a bit more warmth attached to his carefully crafted chaos.