TIFF review: The Personal History Of David Copperfield

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD SPEC D: Armando Iannucci. UK. 116 min. Sep 14, 12:45 pm, Scotiabank 14. Rating: NNNN

After decades of making comedies in the verité/mockumentary mode – The Thick Of It, In The Loop, Veep and The Death Of Stalin – Iannucci embraces a more fanciful aesthetic with this imaginative, ebullient adaptation of Charles Dickens’s tale of a young boy’s journey to manhood, staged with a deliberately diverse cast. 

Iannucci and co-writer Simon Blackwell stay true to the book’s episodic nature as young David (played as a child by Jairaj Varsani, and as a young man by Dev Patel) moves from family to family as his fortunes rise and fall. And the film’s larger conceit of the adult David telling his tale to an audience in a Victorian theatre allows the ensemble cast to go as big as they please, with Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Benedict Wong being particular delights.

The whole thing has an energy that makes you feel as though it’s about to turn into a musical at any moment, though that never quite happens. Bit of a shame, really.

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