Watching Great Expectations to improve your SAT reading score
Great Expectations (2012) is not as gloomy, grungy, and violent as the first scenes and trailer suggest. There are plenty of bright and sparkling scenes with dresses of sumptuous fabric and glittering jewels that are a delight to watch. However, there are also some gruesome scenes, such as a fatal burning scene where I would have rather not seen the charred flesh.
Great Expectations as the 19th century soap opera
The extreme to which the plots lines are taken, is also played out in the extremes to which the characters are taken. The character Miss Haversham (Helena Bonham Carter fans will recognize her as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies) in the decayed glory of her wedding day takes on the feel of a classic haunted house. It is so extreme as to be almost comic in her tragedy. (The movie also has Ralph Fiennes, Voldemort from Harry Potter.)
The wild swings of the plot to almost the ridiculous can be better appreciated (tolerated?) if you take them for what they are, instead of trying to consider whether or not they are realistic. If you consider that the original story, written by Charles Dickens, was written in monthly installments for magazines it’s easier to accept the wild coincidences and extreme situations. Those serialized stories depended on cliff hangers as wild as the soap operas and television dramas of today, with love triangles, murders, found parents, and unrequited love.
However, the ending was also influenced by the fact that it was written for the masses, to its benefit. Dickens was convinced that to remain popular, the story would need a happy ending. Apparently literary critics think this would be Dickens’ greatest work if not for the happy ending. However, the bittersweet ending of the triumph of steadfast and true love is what saved it for me, and left me curious to read the original novel.
Can you get by with just watching the movie version of Great Expectations?
Unfortunately, the vocabulary of the movie itself wasn’t advanced. You’ll have to read the book to get the benefit of that. For that reason, I moved it to toward the end of our watch list. But, so far I’ve found little in the way of movies to tempt boys to read the classics. The action packed scenes in this movie just might do the trick if they can then go on to read the novel.
Note: this is not the 1998 Great Expectations version with Gwyneth Paltrow that’s a modern reinterpretation and rated R for more reasons than one.
Before watching Great Expectations
Before you watch Great Expectations, read my tips on how watch movies to improve your SAT score.
I watched all of these movies with my teen girls in mind. However, sensitives vary. If you have any question about a movie, the reviews on Common Sense Media are an excellent resource.