Oliver Twist Roman Polanski
Published Sep 01, 2005You could say that this Dickens redux is a cut above the usual lit-flick adaptation, but it's only one, and not nearly high enough. There's a slight tinge of melancholy fluttering at the edges of some lackadaisical frames, and with our boy Twist going from the workhouse to the undertaker to the corrupt hands of Fagin (Ben Kingsley), it's not hard to see why. But though it's more about the story than the furniture, that story is a blip on the radar in comparison to other Polanski efforts.
You have to know his work cold to see any connection to past efforts - apparently the man has been drained of conviction and almost emptied of formal intelligence. The film flits from point to point almost obliviously, but though the novel practically hands him another innocent defiled by external circumstances it barely registers as something Roman can do.
The compositions are just good enough to suggest the movie that got away, and the acting, though competent, is by a group of apathetically selected unknowns who don't sell their roles. The results are far from unwatchable, but they don't give us new ways to think about Dickens and instead give all the wrong ways to think about Polanski, suggesting he's merely putting in the time as an auteur whose moment has passed.
I didn't agree with the people who thought his Cannes/Oscar winner The Pianist was listless and dull, but it seems the director decided to fulfil those critics' worst fears by turning in this indifferent retelling. That it's no doubt doomed to become a visual aid in high school English is perhaps the greatest use to which it can be put. (Sony)