Great Expectations

Year: 1997
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Charles Dickens
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Azaria, Anne Bancroft, Robert De Niro
As Ethan Hawke's character Finnegan Bell says all at the beginning; he's going to tell it how he remembers it, not like it happened. The result is a movie like a dream, with tiny snatches of magic and beauty that would only exist in our hearts in real life.

Partly exploring the idea that some people are born passionate and find magic in life no matter what its form, it stays true to the central tenets of Dickens' idea - the expectations of a young man about his life changed by the truths. With the soul of a great artist, trailer-trash Florida gulf fishing child Finn befriends the insane wealthiest woman in the area (Bancroft). She then spends his growing life encouraging him to love her beautiful niece Estella (Paltrow) who she's poisoned against men - with the purpose of having Estella break his heart (as twisted revenge against her own jilting years before).

When an anonymous benefactor funds his success as a New York artist (that he assumes is her), he discovers it's killer Arthur Lustig (De Niro), whom he helped escape from the police years before. With most of what he thought his life was in tatters, he returns to the mansion of the crazy Aunt - now dead - to find Estella similarly disillusioned after a lifetime of her own crushed expectations - divorced with a child, both of them finally honest and free. Hawke gives a spirited performance while still safely in his pretty boy mould. Paltrow is quite beautiful, not the skinny skank she'd be in Sliding Doors. Bancroft and De Niro - two of the masters of their craft, fall into their characters like feather quilts, and it gloriously shows.

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