TNT airs the Charles Dickens’ classic by Hallmark Hall of Fame Sunday, 12/10/00 at 8:00 pm ET/PT, with part two airing the following night. Based on the author’s extraordinary semi-autobiographical story of a young man’s journey to adulthood in the most exciting and dangerous city in the world – 19th century London. As young Copperfield struggles to find a place in the world, he encounters love, corruption and some of the most bizarre characters ever created.
This production captures the look and moodiness Dickens brought to life in his book. Alas, the weakest character in the film is the lead himself. As portrayed by Hugh Dancy, Copperfield comes off as a bit of a mamby pamby. Indecisive and at times cowardly, he sometimes frustrates the viewer as a man incapable of standing up for himself, or others. True, the book’s title character was all that and less, but two nights of his wishy-washy attitude begins to irritate. You keep wanting him to stand up for himself. But when Mr. Dancy finally does act like a man, you get the distinct impression that a strong breeze could easily blow him down.
Sally Field, on the other hand, gives a remarkable performance. As Aunt Betsey, she is extravagant, funny, and nearly unrecognizable. At her first appearance, I wasn’t sure it was the same woman who once played a flying nun. Her well-written role is that of a unique woman for the time, one who made her own way and played by her own rules.
Overall, it’s a good introduction to Dickens for youngsters, and should be an enjoyable for the family for two evenings. Although the main character is a bit of a fop, “David Copperfield” is an exquisite example of storytelling. But next week, show your sons a good John Wayne western.