I just saw the trailer for the movie adaptation of Llyod Jones’ 2006 novel, Mr. Pip. The film starring Hugh Laurie of House fame will be released in October. Yes, trailers are supposed to whet the moviegoer’s appetite. You never know what the final product will look like. But I was very moved by what I saw. First, there’s the premise: The story of a young girl in the autonomous region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea who encounters violence and literature all at once. Violence comes in the form of civil war and harrowing loss. Literature and hope for the future come together in her teacher, the lone Westerner on the island, Mr. Watts, who introduces her to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The girl ends up deeply identifying with the orphan Pip, one of Dickens’ finest creations.
The story stands on its own fine merits. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Still, it’s good news when a novel like this wins screen time and investment. The scenery is exotic; the island paradise is the farthest thing from Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. The cast is mostly indigenous to Papua New Guinea and the film is directed by New Zealand native Andrew Adamson.
This is a smart move by Hugh Laurie. His titular character on House is so iconic that it could easily overwhelm the talented actor. Mr. Pip still has Laurie looking like the disheveled House, but his refined English accent is back. The social pariah is also there, but not the edgy doctor alienated by his own pain and genius.
Movies like Mr. Pip make so much sense from just about every perspective. They tell an ultimately uplifting story based on outstanding source material, use authentic locations and the actors they provide, draw on a talented regional film industry, and reboot the career of one of the greatest actors alive today. Now I just have to go see the actual movie.
Watch the trailer on http://youtube.com/watch?v=6zGhQJMm4A4