Mike Newell is one of those journeyman directors who has been steadily working since the ’60s, who rose through the ranks of British television, directing soaps and play-for-todays, until he hit his stride with “Donnie Brasco,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and the fourth Harry Potter movie. He’s not somebody whose name readily comes up when discussing film art, but I bet he paid off his mortgage ages ago. And now he steps up with a pretty faithful but truncated adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations.”
The expectations, pardon the pun, on Mr. Newell however are whether he can shrug off the shadow of David Lean’s classic version of the tale of Pip. Yes, the ages of the actors are much better than a late-30s John Mills pretending to be a young man in his 20s, but Mr. Lean’s film has art and economy on its side. And another Harry Potter director, Alfonso Cuarun, tried to modernize the story in 1998 with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow with mixed results.