The second half of the newest Great Expectations continued to pour on the grim--except, of course, for the final reunion between Pip and Estella, which seemed rather more optimistic about their chances than Dickens was in the revised ending of his novel. (In fact, the ending, in which Estella is on the verge of becoming Miss Havisham 2.0, echoes the conclusion of David Lean's far more famous adaptation.) The color palette continued to run from gray to gray, especially as the walls of Satis House continued moldering and the butterflies turned to dust; the fires at the end provided the few literal sparks, although the pretty young ladies we briefly glimpse at the dances, arrayed in pale colors, also call us back to those poor pinned insects. Not surprisingly, the color was not the only thing that continued to be bleached out: there was still no sign of the novel's comedy, so that Joe's visit to London turned into a glum lecture on how Pip was ashamed of his origins, the Pockets were erased, and the Aged P was nowhere to be seen. Estella herself was far angrier than her novelistic equivalent, doing in her claim that she's heartless. I'll admit that it took me several hours to watch this installment, simply because the whole thing was just so depressing.
This being a modern adaptation, there was somewhat more sex than Dickens might have had in mind. Pip gets to kiss Estella while she stands in a lake, her dress hiked up and legs showing; Drummle, appropriately thuggish, drags poor innocent Pip to a house of ill repute (Pip's virtue remains intact, however); Compeyson promises Orlick a lifetime's supply of prostitutes, among other things, for capturing Magwitch; and, most astonishingly, Molly turns out to be not just Mr. Jaggers' housekeeper, but also his longtime mistress. (Alas, poor Wemmick is deprived of Miss Skiffins, although Herbert at least gets to marry Clara.) The undercurrents of passion, licit and otherwise, both highlight its weird efflorescence at Satis House and suggest that the one thing that unites society, high and low, is heterosexual desire--thwarted, in Pip's case, given that all his most emotionally resonant and reciprocal relationships turn out to be with other men. (He has a much better time waltzing with Herbert Pocket than with Estella, or so it appears.) In that respect, Orlick is Pip's darker double. Instead of trying to murder Pip out of jealousy, frustration, and competition over Biddy (who is entirely absent from this adaptation), Orlick tries to murder him because he wants to take his place with Joe. Orlick is the "bad son," as it were, and yet he's the one who wants his substitute "father's" approval; there's a failed family romance going on here.
Pip, of course, turns out to have no real place at all. The adaptation does do a nice job with the theme of Pip's identity crisis, as character after character implicitly or explicitly accuses him of being a pretender. ("I don't know who you are," says Mr. Wemmick.) Miss Havisham, still crueler than the novel's original, bluntly informs him that he's merely "the boy from the forge," as he cannot lay claim to either genteel or even blacksmith status ("you didn't finish your appprenticeship"). By the end, Pip has gone back to Joe, but is training for the law--a different way of suggesting, along with the original novel, that one can't go home again. But he's denied his life as the third wheel in the Herbert/Clara relationship, as though everything having to do with Pip's former status as a lad with expectations must go by the wayside. (Except Estella, of course.) One of the problems with the casting here, as it happens, is that Pip's body, once trained, never shows any sign of his past blacksmith training; by contrast, one of the very few things that stands out about the novel's Pip is that he boasts a pretty astonishing set of muscles. (The adaptation substitutes Pip's old accent for his body as the indelible trace of his origins.)
Arguably, one of the unusual choices turns out to be Miss Havisham's death. Skipping the usual symbolism (Pip puts out the flames with the tablecloth, thereby dumping the decayed wedding cake on the floor), the writer and director make Miss Havisham commit suicide by deliberately burning herself to death, using her letters and wedding bouquet as fuel. This almost ritualized self-immolation, with Miss Havisham dolled up in the remnants of her wedding finery (complete with veil), has a weirdly All That Jazz-ish vibe to it, which surely can't be what the production team had in mind: in the end, what is she in love with, but death itself? At the same time, her death in the veil echoes our glimpse of a terrified, veiled Estella in the carriage, off to wed Drummle and knowing full well to what she has committed herself. (Pip has the somewhat unfortunate distinction of sharing Estella's only onscreen kisses with the horse that conveniently offs Drummle.) White can be for shrouds as well as for weddings, after all.