OLIVER TWIST (Roman Polanski, 2005)
Roman Polanski helms the latest cinematic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ OLIVER TWIST. Barney Clark stars as Oliver, an orphan who falls in with a group of boys who pick pockets on the London streets for their master. Ben Kingsley is Fagin, the devilish rogue who shows the boys kindness in exchange for their thieving.
With its handsome art direction and cinematography, Polanski’s OLIVER TWIST represents a triumph of formal design. It’s an impeccable production on a visual level and undeniably a well-made film, but the narrative often lacks the spark to bring it to life. The social commentary lingering from the source material grants Polanski some well-deserved potshots at those who believe Oliver should be grateful for even their most meager charity. Yet this airless adaptation chokes on its lack of freshness. A more interesting and relevant take on OLIVER TWIST might be to move it to the Brazilian slums in the explosive CITY OF GOD. OLIVER TWIST gradually improves, building to a climax in which Oliver pardons his oppressor, a scene that contains real power. Unfortunately, too much of the film lacks the same resonance.
(Review first aired on the October 11, 2005 NOW PLAYING)