Armando Iannucci has spent most of his career creating characters who embrace cruelty. While some feel it’s off-putting to continually in this realm, most think that he’s a realist. Iannucci recognizes that it’s a cruel world full of people with ambition, making his latest project even more of a surprise. The Personal History of David Copperfield is everything Iannucci has failed to address in previous work. The narrative – which he co-wrote with Simon Blackwell – is a positive, almost sunny look at the world. While the story does have some dark moments, it is the most autobiographical of Charles Dickens’s work.
The Personal History of David Copperfield does offer the audience an exciting dichotomy between optimism and being realistic. In Copperfield, it seems the characters with the clearest perspective are the antagonists in the tale. Those who have a more rosy outlook on things tend to look at things on the bright side. What was enjoyable is how Iannucci embraced this adaptation with a clear conviction—casting Dev Patel as the lead was a stroke of brilliance. The director to look for as his talent and not where he was born. Having Copperfield narrate his own life in what look to be a “theater” was lovely too. While the novel itself is quite massive, Iannucci manages to strike a balance between the darker and lighter elements of the text.
The work of cinematographer Zac Nicholson, costumer designers Suzie Harman and Robert Worley provided the perfect touches to this adaption. While The Personal History of David Copperfield is both warm and witty, the film itself feels incomplete. The film feels like we are getting the cliff note version of a fully realized piece—an average experience for what could have been so much more.