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The Personal History of David Copperfield: 5 reasons why we’re already excited


With the likes of The Favourite, Avengers: Endgame, Midsommar, Joker and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 2019 has been yet another incredible year for cinema.

Sadly, everything must come to an end, but there are plenty of excellent films for us to look forward to in 2020, and one of the first is The Personal History of David Copperfield, released on the 24th of January.

A fresh and devilishly humorous take on Charles Dickens’ classic novel (the author’s personal favourite), David Copperfield follows the life story of the titular character (Dev Patel), chronicling his journey from childhood to adulthood and all those he meets along the way.

The movie has already met with critical acclaim, and is set to begin 2020 in style. Here, then, are five reasons why we’re already excited about The Personal History of David Copperfield.

1. It’s written and directed by Armando Iannucci

David Copperfield is the latest film from Oscar-nominated writer-director Armando Iannucci, who recently blew us away with his wickedly satirical take on Soviet Russia, The Death of Stalin.

Beginning his career with outrageously off-the-wall sketch show The Armando Iannucci Shows, this Glasgow-born satirist has become best known for his work on televisual comedy classics including The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, Time Trumpet, Primetime Emmy-winning Veep, and, most significantly, magnificently sweary political sitcom The Thick of It.

And let’s not forget the latter’s Oscar-nominated movie counterpart In the Loop – like its small screen predecessor, it’s a riotously funny showcase for Peter Capaldi’s ferocious Malcolm Tucker character.

Iannucci’s eye for character development and wry humour (not always of the profane variety) mean he’s an excellent choice to do justice to Dickens’ multifaceted world.

2. It’s co-written by Simon Blackwell

This isn’t just Iannucci’s show. The Personal History of David Copperfield is co-written by Simon Blackwell, who has previously worked alongside Iannucci on Time Trumpet, The Thick of It, In the Loop and Veep.

Blackwell is also responsible for writing several other British cult TV gems, including Peep Show, Back and The Armstrong and Miller Show. He’s even written for the big screen, too, providing additional material for Chris Morris’s BAFTA-winning terrorist comedy Four Lions.

Given that Blackwell wasn’t involved in The Death of Stalin, we can’t wait to see these two forces of comedy reunited.

3. It stars Dev Patel as David Copperfield

Having first emerged in British teen drama Skins, Dev Patel got his breakout role in Danny Boyle’s eight-time Oscar-winning masterpiece Slumdog Millionaire. In this stirring and ambitious drama, Patel plays a contestant on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? whose life experience helps him divine the correct answers.

Patel subsequently delivered winning performances in the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (along with its sequel), Chappie, Hotel Mumbai and Lion, for which he was Oscar-nominated (his first). Seeing Patel’s name on the bill is usually a sign of quality, but could his stint as the noble David Copperfield finally see him win the Academy Award?

If the critical reception from the 2019 Toronto Film Festival is anything to go by, this might just be his chance. John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter writes: "Graciously, the movie's star almost lets himself disappear from time to time, stepping out of the way of the famously colourful figures surrounding Copperfield.

"For a character who is learning more and more to observe those around him — he mimics their mannerisms when alone, making sure he can describe them correctly — it's a natural approach to the part; but Patel's oft-displayed charm prevents others from upstaging him."

4. It features an equally wonderful supporting cast

Joining Patel on his Dickensian adventure is a stupendously star-studded ensemble. We start with the Oscar-winning Tilda Swinton of Doctor Strange, Snowpiercer, Isle of Dogs, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Okja, and Suspiria fame – she portrays David’s eccentric aunt Betsey Trotwood.

Joining her is Blackadder comedy veteran Hugh Laurie as Mr Dick, the aforementioned Peter Capaldi as the debt-ridden Mr Micawber, Paddington’s Ben Whishaw as the devious Uriah Heep, Game of Thrones and Star Wars actor Gwendoline Christie as the bullying Miss Murdstone, and so many more. Even Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong is getting in on the action, playing Mr Wickfield.

5. It’s a Dickens adaptation unlike any that we’ve seen before

The comedic tone of the film’s Victorian setting in the trailer gives us a taste of what we can expect. However, the critics have given us a more detailed encapsulation of what Iannucci and Blackwell have achieved.

Peter Debruge of Variety, for instance, highlights the filmmaker’s revolutionary take on the Victorian novel, heralding it is "as a bright and jaunty corrective to the dour and stuffy Dickens adaptations that have come before", before continuing to compare it to "[a] long lost Monty Python sketch".

In addition to praising Patel’s performance and Blackwell’s hilarious yet poignant writing, Screen International’s Allan Hunter similarly draws attention to Iannucci’s bold and chaotic visuals, which are said to make for a riotous viewing experience.

The movie has been nominated for 11 British Independent Film Awards, which may well bolster the film's chances at the Oscars in February 2020.

  • Best British Independent Film
  • Best Actor - Dev Patel
  • Best Supporting Actor - Hugh Laurie
  • Best Supporting Actress - Tilda Swinton
  • Best Screenplay - Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell
  • Best Casting - Sarah Crowe
  • Best Costume Design - Suzie Harman, Robert Worley
  • Best Cinematography - Zac Nicholson
  • Best Editing - Mick Audsley, Peter Lambert 
  • Best Make Up & Hair Design - Karen Hartley-Thomas
  • Best Production Design - Cristina Casali

The Personal History of David Copperfield is released on the 24th of January 2020. Are you thinking this will become a classic Charles Dickens adaptation? Let us know your thoughts @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.