As promised in my last column, I decided to go back to the movies the weekend the AMC Theatres nearest me opened. It had been almost six months since Emma and I saw Onward at the still-closed B&B Theatres in Venice, and we were more than ready to mask up and hit the cineplex.
Our Englewood friend Paul came along for the ride. He was interested in seeing the same movie we were, The Personal History of David Copperfield. As a fan of Charles Dickens, Paul felt it was worth the journey to see the movie on the big screen.
I decided to book our tickets online and here is the best piece of advice you will get today; if you plan to buy tickets to the AMC Theatres, join the chain’s loyalty club, Stubs, at the Premiere level. For just $5 a year, all your online booking fees will be waived. My fee for this one purchase was over $5, so it paid for itself.
The theaters are operating at 40% capacity. Once you select your seats on the online map, the ones around you get marked with an X and become unavailable. I would recommend being certain about your seats because it takes a while to correct, if you change your mind, like I did.
I had the option of adding concessions to my order, but didn’t. Who knows if I would be in a popcorn or M&Ms mood? This was a good thing because the one person in front of me in line had ordered her snacks in advance and they weren’t ready. Another good thing, you still have access to the “butter” dispenser.
Checking in was a breeze. Masks are required unless you are eating or drinking. But who are we kidding? It’s not like you eat popcorn for 10 minutes. There were only five total people in our theater, so we felt very safe. Things might not have been the same over at “New Mutants.”
Now on to reviewing my first, actual “movie” in six months. The Personal History of David Copperfield (PG) uses color-blind casting and smart humor to put a spin on Dickens’ 1850 novel that I didn’t have to read in high school. We meet young David when he’s living with his widowed mother, who, along with his straight out of Upstairs Downstairs housekeeper Peggotty, encourages his adventurous spirit and love of writing. But this is Dickens, so enter the evil stepfather Mr. Murdstone who sends young David off to work at a bottle factory in London.
The now grown-up David is played by Dev Patel, who after a dust-up at the bottle factory, quits and heads to the stately home of his eccentric aunt Betsey (Tilda Swinton) who has an unreasonable hatred of donkeys and her even more eccentric companion Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie) who practically steals the movie as he battles a very unusual and amusing mental condition. This gives young David plenty of writing material to add to his wooden box stuffed with precious scraps of paper.
Other characters we meet along the way include the endearing grifter and family man, Mr. Micawber, played by Peter Capaldi of Dr. Who fame, the jolly drunk attorney Mr. Wickfield (Benjamin Wong) and his clever daughter Agnes (Rosalind Eleazar). The normally adorable Ben Whishaw takes on the creepy persona of Uriah Heep. Emma had to tell me that David’s mother and his ditsy love interest are played by the same actress (Morfydd Clark).
Director Armando Iannucci does a fine job of keeping things moving and keeping us involved. Even the characters who don’t have much screen time, have an impact. Patel is fantastic as Copperfield, the smartest guy in the room, who never gloats about it, seeing the positive in bad situations, practicing kindness long before it was a buzzword, passionate about writing, but realistic about his plight.
With its attention to period detail, big personalities, gorgeous costumes and glorious scenic design, we definitely picked the right film for our first trip back to the big screen. The Personal History of David Copperfield is a rich, involving, charming escape to another time. Was it worth buying tickets to watch on the big screen? Paul said, “The sets and the costumes were a big part of the film and would not have been as impressive on the small screen.” Emma was just happy to put an end to her longest movie drought ever. The theater was clean and almost empty. Too empty. If we want to have the chance to see films in a theater in the future, those of us who are healthy and feel comfortable about going out, need to support the movies now.
Amanda Glam is a former B-movie queen who appeared in such movies as “Space Shark” and “Horror at Hoosier High” and the British mini-series “What’s All This Then?” She has retired to Englewood and is thrilled to share her Hollywood know-how and movie insight with Review readers.