Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist
PG-13 | 23 September 2005 (USA)
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Oliver Twist the modern filmed version of Charles Dickens bestseller, a Roman Polanski adaptation. The classic Dickens tale, where an orphan meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master.

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Reviews
JinRoz

For all the hype it got I was expecting a lot more!

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Tedfoldol

everything you have heard about this movie is true.

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Calum Hutton

It's a good bad... and worth a popcorn matinée. While it's easy to lament what could have been...

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Allison Davies

The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.

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Steffi_P

Stories, no matter how respected and illustrious, can exist beyond their origins. Charles Dickens's novel of Oliver Twist has been adapted for the screen a number of times, but rather than simply returning time and again to the source novel successive versions have taken cues from each other, gradually refining the tale over the centuries. David Lean's 1948 version invented the idea of Olvier being abducted by Bill Sykes for the rooftop finale (in the novel Oliver is safe and sound by this point). The subsequent Lionel Bart musical copied this ending, effectively making it official. It's a stark example of the power of cinema as a shaper of stories and cultural knowledge. This latest big screen offering takes that trajectory even further with a modern-style, naturalistic take on the Dickens tale.Just as Dickens's books are most often remembered for their vivid characters so do many Dickens adaptations succeed or fail on the strength of their cast. With this version, I'm quite impressed by Barney Clarke in the title role. Clarke is not a stupefyingly good actor, but in him we at last have an Oliver who is not completely meek and frail, and has a believable amount of fight in him. Ben Kingsley's is certainly the best dramatic Fagin ever, and really the only high quality acting job in the movie. But some of the best moments come from the obvious rapport between the supporting players. There are some moments that seem so perfectly to capture something very familiar and immediate yet also appropriately Dickensian, as when Fagin's boys remove Oliver's fine clothes - they sound just like a normal bunch of teenagers, in spite of the archaic language.But many other times, it just doesn't work, and there are some absolutely woeful bits of acting on display. Worst offender here is Jamie Forman as Bill Sykes; a wooden performance of sub-Eastenders calibre. Also, while it's nice to have a Nancy who is less a mother-substitute and more like a big sister, Leanne Rowe is just not that good. And though the realism of the performances can sometimes conjure up something wonderfully natural and fluid, it can just as easily produce the irritating drone of Jeremy Swift's Mr Bumble.It seems that many of the cast members, good or bad, were chosen for their appropriate physical appearance than anything else. This is not surprising, since Polanski his crafted a rich and thriving world for them to inhabit, as if he was creating a photographic illustration more than a movie. Pawel Edelman's cinematography captures the detail and texture of a Gustav Doré print. The setting does not dampen Polanski's trademark visual style, with lots of tight, grim-looking compositions. A neat example is when Oliver is hauled before the workhouse governors, and the handful of seated men are arranged to create a surreal kind of tunnel. The 19th century squalor seems stiflingly close to the viewer.But perhaps the most significant thing about this edition of Dickens's story is its manipulation of the story. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood has excised the subplot of Oliver being related to Mr Brownlow, a daft construction that stretched the bounds of probability and confirmed the class prejudice Dickens held at that time. This adaptation also emphasises Oliver's final confrontation with Fagin, a powerful and moving coda and a very mature thing to include. A lot of other minor diversions have been stripped away to give a very direct and efficient retelling. But this tinkering with the text is also the movie's downfall. In simplifying the story, just a few too many corners have been cut. Key characters like Bill Sykes are introduced without ceremony. There's also not enough time to build up a convincing relationship between Oliver and Brownlow. This version of Oliver Twist may look sumptuous and have many flashes of brilliance, but as a whole it is a rather cold, drab experience.

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terephiel

I saw Roman Polanski's adaptation of "Oliver Twist" when it came to theaters, albeit due to its limited US release, I was lucky to discover it was even playing at all. My mother had to drive herself, my younger sister, and I all the way to Chattanooga to do so. I went into the theater with eagerness and excitement, but came out perplexed and unimpressed. I've been a fan of "Oliver Twist" since I saw the famed 1968 film "Oliver!" as a boy. It prompted me to read the novel as an eight year old, but when I took an Accelerated Reading test, I was stupid and decided to base my answers off the 1997 Disney version instead. One can guess where that got me.When watching this, I was initially questioning why Polanski chose to leave out the classic scene of Oliver's mother Agnes Fleming making her way through the town of Mudfog while expecting her child, eventually being taken to the workhouse where she gives birth and dies. The director apparently chose to take out any of the novel's title subplots. That part, Edward "Monks" Leeford and his entire plot with Fagin to disinherit Oliver, and so on -- all removed. That's probably my main issue with this film in general. Those subplots are important and essential parts to the novel itself. As one user here noted, just as one doesn't remove parts of a Mozart symphony, neither does one pick and choose Dickens. The 1968 musical didn't show Agnes's part, but it was eluded on and we got to see a picture of her. It would've been better for Polanski to have taken the foolish route other directors have done and made Oliver Mr. Brownlow's grandson than not putting anything about the boy's origins at all.As also noted by the same user, if Oliver hadn't resembled the portrait of Agnes (again, not shown in any way in this film) and was the son of Brownlow's best friend Edwin Leeford, then why on earth would Brownlow have adopted him? His good looks? His nice clothes? His humble social status? Sorry, but it's just not believable. I'm sure there were plenty of other children, boy or girl, who were just as nice looking and tenderhearted as Oliver. If Brownlow adopted every pity case he ever came on, then I'm sure his house would've been overflowing with hoards of little street urchins. Aside from the nonsense and disbelief created by the deletion of "Oliver Twist"'s subplots, this particular film's storyline just seemed to copy that of other versions. Like the versions by David Lean, Carol Reed, and Disney, Sykes grabs Oliver and takes him hostage on the roof before accidentally hanging himself. That doesn't happen in the original story. Heck, the boy wasn't even *there* when the event happened. I've not really seen any Polanski films aside from this, but I know he could've done better.The sets were OK and the choice of actors were decent, but again, Polanski could've made some improvements. Jamie Foreman just didn't have the evilness and malevolence of Bill Sykes that I thought he should've had. His predecessors Robert Newton, Oliver Reed, and Andy Serkis certainly did. Harry Eden was OK for the Artful Dodger, I suppose. I'd rather he'd have been around Oliver's age as he was in the book, but I've never really been as picky about the portrayed age of Dodger and Charlie Bates as many others are. Barney Clark, well...he was just too old for the title role. He portrayed the character fine, but he neither looked nor sounded like a nine year old boy. Richard Charles was eleven in the 1982 version by Clive Donner, but he looked and sounded much younger than he really was, so it was alright. If Polanski had chosen to make his own adaptation in 2003 or 2004, then I'd be more accepting of Clark because he fit the part of a younger character at those ages. A 12, almost 13 year old, though? No. The other characters were perfect.The soundtrack was one of the few positive highlights about "Oliver Twist." They're well composed and very enjoyable to listen to. All in all, this wasn't too bad of a film, but it could've been so much better. As another user noted somewhere else, too, if "Oliver Twist" were to be remade into a faithful telling of the book with the quality picture, sets, etc. this film had, then it'd be the most perfect version ever made. I wouldn't necessarily not recommend Polanski's adaptation to someone, but there are others I'd certainly do so before this one any day. If you want a quality version, go for the 1948 version by David Lean or the 1999 TV series by Alan Bleasdale. They're certainly not perfect, but they're far more faithful in general to the original novel and are certainly never boring like this one gets. The 1985 TV series by Alexander Baron isn't bad either, but the picture quality is horrible and Ben Rodska is literally the most hideous and terribly accented Oliver you'll ever see.

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beresfordjd

How disappointed am I!! I like Roman Polanski's work usually-Just loved The Pianist, but this film is so bereft of emotion and atmosphere it could have been made by just about anyone. The costumes and sets are well done but do not look grubby enough for the period and the descriptions that Dickens gives. So many versions have been done so much better-given that Oliver! (the musical) managed to convey the atmosphere I find it hard to understand how Polanski could not manage it. No-one looks right or acts convincingly apart from Ben Kingsley. An actor would have to go a long way to top Robert Newton or Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes and the Bill Sykes in this is not up to it. It seems so true to the book and yet Monks and his motive is not part of it.It is a difficult story to tell with all the richness and characters that Charles Dickens supplies but RP should have tried- much harder.

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piedbeauty37

I've seen several versions of this Dickens classic, and this is the best. Dickens first wrote "Oliver Twist" as a serial for the newspaper. That's why there were so many side plots--Oliver's unwed mother, the two cousins in the country, Mr. Bumble and his wife, the lost locket etc.None of the side plots are really necessary to the core of this story, which shows good and evil unvarnished. The boy who played Oliver was simply marvelous. This film had the best Bill Sykes--evil and unredeemable. The squalor in which these people lived is portrayed very well.I totally loved this version.

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