Great Expectations (1998)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Jan 30, 1998 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The umpteenth version of Charles Dickens' seminal English class novel, this Great Expectations updates the events to modern-day Florida and New York City. Ethan Hawke plays the gifted artist Finn Bell, forever chasing after Gwyneth Paltrow's Estella, who prefers taunting and teasing him to showing any genuine affection. Herein lies the problem with director Alfonso Cuaron's often gorgeous film. Sure, the magical, sensual water fountain kiss that transpires between their ten-year-old selves, played by Jeremy James Kissner and the astonishing Raquel Beaudene, provides the foundation for great romantic fantasy. But viewers are never given any subsequent reason to like the elitist Estella, to whom Finn is nothing more than a plaything. So when Finn runs through the rain in a tuxedo, mad with love and anguish, it's unearned. Cuaron offers a fascinating world of rotting grandeur -- the Florida mansion invaded by vines, the sterile Manhattan studio the size of a warehouse -- but no sympathetic characters to populate it, save Finn's kindly hayseed uncle, played lovingly by Chris Cooper. Those with an interest in Paltrow should enjoy the film, but may feel cheated.