The Personal History of David Copperfield is a 2019 comedy-drama film written and directed by Armando Iannucci, based on the 1850 Victorian era novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It stars Dev Patel as the title character, along with Aneurin Barnard, Peter Capaldi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Paul Whitehouse.
|The Personal History of David Copperfield|
|Directed by||Armando Iannucci|
|Based on||David Copperfield|
by Charles Dickens
|Music by||Christopher Willis|
|Box office||$14.2 million|
The world premiere was at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2020 by Lionsgate UK and in the United States on 28 August 2020 by Searchlight Pictures.
David Copperfield is born to his mother Clara, who was widowed before her son's birth. He has an idyllic life. David visits the family of his nanny Peggotty in their (upturned) boathouse in Yarmouth as a child. When he returns, he finds out Clara has married the sinister and cruel Mr. Murdstone. David is bullied by his new stepfather and step-aunt. When Murdstone harasses Clara, David tries to defend her, but is beaten by Murdstone, who sends him to work in Murdstone's factory in London where he lodges with the Micawbers, who are pursued by their creditors.
A few years later, David is now a young man still working at Murdstone's factory. He has been jotting quotes by people important in his life down on pieces of paper. The Micawbers are driven out of their house by bailiffs, who also seize their possessions. David is told of his mother's death and funeral, wreaks havoc in the factory, and finding out that his aunt Betsey Trotwood is his only living relative, goes back to Dover where he finds his wealthy aunt and her lodger, the eccentric Mr. Dick, who has an obsession with King Charles I's head. He thinks that when Charles was executed, the King's troubled thoughts took up residence in his own mind. He, like David, jots them down on pieces of paper.
David helps Mr. Dick clear his mind by transferring these papers to a kite which Mr Dick then flies. David also meets Mr. Wickfield, Betsey's accountant, and his daughter Agnes. To continue his studies, David is admitted to a school for boys, where he meets James Steerforth. David has a boxing match with a local thug who mocks him and Steerforth, and is knocked out in two punches, knowing almost nothing about boxing. Wickfield's clerk Uriah Heep invites him for tea with his mother. Mr. Micawber briefly joins the school as a teacher, but is exposed by Steerforth and is shown the door.
David goes to Uriah's house for tea, as he had promised a few days earlier. Uriah tries to blackmail him with the knowledge he gained of David's past. Later, David finds out Uriah has been hired as an assistant to Mr. Wickfield at his firm and is attempting to court Agnes. There is a farewell party at the boys' school, where David meets Steerforth's mother and a girl named Dora Spenlow, whom he falls in love with. He is hired as a trainee lawyer in Mr Spenlow's law firm in London. There he lives the life of a 'young gentleman', and courts Dora.
His aunt Betsey turns up unexpectedly at his London lodgings with Mr. Dick: she tells him she has been ruined, and they all decamp to a slum dwelling. David visits Pegotty's house with Steerforth. Pegotty's adopted daughter Emily runs away with Steerforth, leaving her fiancé and childhood 'brother' Ham. Mr. Micawber is now living on the streets with his family and has pawned his concertina, which he asks Mr. Dick to buy back. However, when Mr. Dick is given a price of a pound for the concertina, he tricks the shopkeeper and steals it. The Micawbers are then given shelter by Betsey Trotwood and Mr. Dick.
Agnes tells David, Micawber, Betsey, and Mr. Dick that she wants a letter written by Mr. Wickfield to use as evidence against Uriah, who she knows is doing something corrupt. David, Agnes and others confront Uriah, who had been embezzling funds from the firm by forging Mr. Wickfield's signature on documents. One of these had robbed Betsey Trotwood of her fortune. Wickfield then dismisses Uriah from his firm. Dora calls off her engagement with David, asking him to write her out of his book. Emily, who had run away with James Steerforth, is spotted in London by the Pegotty family. She tells them and David that Steerforth had abandoned her in France, but would return the following day to Yarmouth.
There is a storm at sea and the boat with Steerforth is about to be wrecked on the Yarmouth beach. Ham swims out to it on a line, but Steerforth refuses to be rescued and is drowned. Emily and Mrs. Steerforth mourn his death and David realises he is in love with Agnes. David finishes writing his book. It is published, and is a great success, critically and financially. David buys the house back, Betsey and Mr. Dick move back into it, Mr. Micawber appears to have acquired some form of financial stability, and David and Agnes are married and have a daughter.
- Dev Patel as David Copperfield
- Jairaj Varsani as young David Copperfield
- Aneurin Barnard as James Steerforth
- Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber
- Morfydd Clark as Dora Spenlow / Clara Copperfield
- Daisy May Cooper as Peggotty
- Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes Wickfield
- Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick
- Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood
- Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep
- Paul Whitehouse as Mr. Peggotty
- Benedict Wong as Mr. Wickfield
- Nikki Amuka-Bird as Mrs. Steerforth
- Darren Boyd as Edward Murdstone
- Gwendoline Christie as Jane Murdstone
- Matthew Cottle as Mr Spenlow
- Bronagh Gallagher as Mrs Micawber
- Anthony Welsh as Ham Peggotty
- Aimee Kelly as Emily
- Anna Maxwell Martin as Mrs. Strong
- Victor McGuire as Creakle
- Peter Singh as Tungay
- Ruby Bentall as Janet
- Divian Ladwa as Dr. Chillip
- Rosaleen Linehan as Mrs. Gummidge
- Sophie McShera as Mrs. Crupp
It was announced in February 2018 that Armando Iannucci would be writing, directing, and producing a new adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. Iannucci wrote the screenplay with co-writer Simon Blackwell. Dev Patel was cast in the title role later that month. In April, the supporting cast was added, which included Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Aneurin Barnard, Ben Whishaw and Morfydd Clark. In May 2018, Peter Capaldi was cast to play Mr. Micawber and pre-production was underway.
Filming began in June 2018 in Norfolk and Suffolk, with Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, Paul Whitehouse, and Daisy May Cooper joining the cast. Scenes were shot in Hull, Bury St Edmunds, Weybourne and King's Lynn in July. Aimee Kelly was added to the cast the same month. Principal photography on the film concluded in August 2018. In filming David Copperfield, it became the first theatrical film production of the novel in 50 years.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019, followed by its European premiere on 2 October 2019, acting as the opening film of the 63rd BFI London Film Festival. It was the Surprise Film at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom by Lionsgate UK on 24 January 2020. Searchlight Pictures acquired distribution rights for the United States and scheduled the release on 8 May 2020. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema, it was theatrically released later on 28 August 2020.
The Personal History of David Copperfield has grossed $1.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $12.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $14.2 million, against a production budget of $15.6 million.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 245 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Personal History of David Copperfield puts a fresh, funny, and utterly charming spin on Dickens' classic, proving some stories truly are timeless." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". PostTrak reported that 74% of audience members gave the film a positive score, with 50% saying they would recommend it.
Writing for The Observer, Mark Kermode awarded the film a full five stars and stated: "It really is a wonderfully entertaining film, managing to both respect and reinvent the novel from which it takes its lead."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|British Independent Film Awards||1 December 2019||Best British Independent Film||Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell & Kevin Loader||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Dev Patel||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Hugh Laurie||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Tilda Swinton||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell||Won|
|Best Casting||Sarah Crowe||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Zac Nicholson||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Suzie Harman and Robert Worley||Won|
|Best Editing||Mick Audsley and Peter Lambert||Nominated|
|Best Make Up & Hair Design||Karen Hartley-Thomas||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Cristina Casali||Won|
|London Film Week Awards||1 December 2019||Best Film||Armando Ianucci||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Armando Ianucci and Simon Blackwell||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||2 February 2020||Best Casting||Sarah Crowe||Nominated|
|Boulder International Film Festival Awards||5 March 2020||Best Feature Film||Armando Iannucci||Won|
|European Film Awards||12 December 2020||Best Production Designer||Cristina Casali||Won|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards||Best Production Design||Cristina Casali||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||15 February 2021||Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Dev Patel||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Suzie Harman and Robert Worley||Won|
|Best Art Direction and Production Design||Cristina Casali and Charlotte Dirickx||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||28 February 2021||Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical Comedy||Dev Patel||Nominated|||
|Hollywood Critics Association Awards||5 March 2021||Best Comedy/Musical||Nominated|||
|Best Costume Design||Suzie Harman and Robert Worley||Won|
|Best Production Design||Cristina Casali||Nominated|
|Critics’ Choice Movie Awards||March 7, 2021||Best Costume Design||Suzie Harman and Robert Worley||Nominated|||
|Best Production Design||Cristina Casali and Charlotte Dirickx||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||April 15, 2021||Feature Big Budget – Comedy||Sarah Crowe||Nominated|||
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