‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ Trailer: Dev Patel and Armando Iannucci Rewrite Dickens

The "Veep" creator turns to Charles Dickens for his latest satire of social mores.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
"The Personal History of David Copperfield"
Searchlight Pictures/screenshot

Right on the heels of another trailer starring Dev Patel that released today — “The Green Knight,” from director David Lowery — Searchlight Pictures has revealed a new look at “The Personal History of David Copperfield.” Patel stars as the title character in writer/director Armando Iannucci’s (“Veep”) revisionist take on the classic Charles Dickens bildungsroman. It’s cowritten by Iannucci collaborator Simon Blackwell. After a Toronto International Film Festival premiere back in fall 2019, Searchlight Pictures finally will release “The Personal History of David Copperfield” in the United States on May 8, 2020. Take a look at the new trailer below.

In rewriting Dickens’ 1849 tome about the coming of age of a man from youth to adulthood, from impoverished orphan to decorated Victorian author, Iannucci puts a quirky spin on the kind of satire he developed in blistering, politically charged series “The Thick of It” and “Veep,” and films such as “In the Loop” and “The Death of Stalin.” In Iannucci country, no one is left unscathed and everyone — wokeness and politically correct allegiance be damned — is a potential comic slaughter. “With ‘David Copperfield,’ he applies that same skill to literature, transforming Dickens’ sprawling first-person opus into a blithe mid-century romp,” wrote IndieWire’s Eric Kohn in his review out of Toronto. “But it’s hard to shake the sense that this acerbic storyteller has softened his bite.”

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” has already picked up a slew of awards since its world premiere, with five British Independent Film Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Iannucci MVP Hugh Laurie, who is also currently seen on Iannucci’s new outer-space-set HBO comedy “Avenue 5,” just renewed for a second season. The film was also up for the inaugural Best Casting prize at the EE BAFTAs earlier this month. The cast here includes Darren Boyd as David’s cruel stepfather, Peter Capaldi as an indebted rogue, Tilda Swinton as David’s eccentric aunt, and Laurie as her mentally unstable companion. Benedict Wong co-stars as the overseer of the Copperfield estate.

“Of course, Dickens’ book walked its own fine line between satire and sentimentality, so the very unevenness of Iannucci’s approach suggests a sophisticated gamble behind the camera to do justice to the material,” concluded Kohn’s review. “Instead, it winds up trapped somewhere between a faithful retelling and half-formed bursts of revisionist concepts. David Copperfield may be an unreliable narrator, but his story deserves a steadier hand.”

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