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TIFF Capsule Review: 'Mr. Pip'

By Jason Anderson | Indiewire September 11, 2012 at 9:05AM

Readers of Lloyd Jones’ much-acclaimed 2006 novel may be the only viewers who have the patience to sit through this badly botched and largely incoherent adaptation by director Andrew Adamson, a veteran of the “Shrek” and “Narnia” franchises. Working from his own screenplay, Adamson even fails to provide much of an entry point for this based-on-true-events story, which takes place on a remote South Pacific island whose inhabitants’ resistance to mining exploitation led to civil war in Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s. The action centers on the bond between Matilda (Xzannjah), a 12-year-old islander, and Mr. Watts (Hugh Laurie), her town’s sole white resident. After reluctantly becoming the community’s schoolteacher, Watts uses the words of “Great Expectations” to inspire the children (and later their parents) in the face of the hardships they suffer due to the island’s blockade by government forces. Segments portraying Matilda’s Dickens-inspired fantasies are just one element in a crowded hodgepodge of tactics that never form a convincing overall strategy. Nor is the light and whimsical nature of the early scenes likely to prepare viewers for the brutality of the tragedies that ensue when Matilda’s obsession with the book has inadvertent consequences. Elsewhere, Adamson clearly struggles to convey the gravitas and lyricism of moments that likely had greater impact on the page. Criticwire grade: C [Jason Anderson]
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Readers of Lloyd Jones’ much-acclaimed 2006 novel may be the only viewers who have the patience to sit through this badly botched and largely incoherent adaptation by director Andrew Adamson, a veteran of the “Shrek” and “Narnia” franchises. Working from his own screenplay, Adamson even fails to provide much of an entry point for this based-on-true-events story, which takes place on a remote South Pacific island whose inhabitants’ resistance to mining exploitation led to civil war in Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s. The action centers on the bond between Matilda (Xzannjah), a 12-year-old islander, and Mr. Watts (Hugh Laurie), her town’s sole white resident. After reluctantly becoming the community’s schoolteacher, Watts uses the words of “Great Expectations” to inspire the children (and later their parents) in the face of the hardships they suffer due to the island’s blockade by government forces. Segments portraying Matilda’s Dickens-inspired fantasies are just one element in a crowded hodgepodge of tactics that never form a convincing overall strategy. Nor is the light and whimsical nature of the early scenes likely to prepare viewers for the brutality of the tragedies that ensue when Matilda’s obsession with the book has inadvertent consequences. Elsewhere, Adamson clearly struggles to convey the gravitas and lyricism of moments that likely had greater impact on the page. Criticwire grade: C [Jason Anderson]

This article is related to: Mr. Pip, Toronto International Film Festival, Reviews, Andrew Adamson





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