More Bleak House Reviews
Posted at 6:39 AM (PST) on Friday, January 20, 2006

It's never too soon for a new Dickens film. He's the most cinematically translatable of novelists, whose sprawling stories with their intertwining plots, vivid characters, Shakespearean mix of the comic and tragic, eminently speakable dialogue and marvelously described set pieces beg to be put on the screen. (The books will, of course, survive even the failed movies and this is not one of those.) The series was broadcast in Britain last year in 15 twice-weekly episodes, partly to suggest the novel's original, 19-installment serial publication. I happened to watch it all in a single sitting, and if you have the luxury of any sort of TV recorder and eight hours of continuous free time, I'd recommend gathering the episodes for binge viewing. The gathering force of the story and the need to know what comes next carry you along. It's never dull. But however you split it, it's well worth the time. -- Los Angeles Times

This "Bleak House" is sublimely bleak, as well as richly textured, superbly acted and intermittently funny. Fans of the epic adaptations that have long been the bread and butter of "Masterpiece Theatre" won't want to miss it. ...this is serial TV and literary adaptation at its finest, with chiseled, hard-edged performances by Dance and Anderson, the one-time star of "The X Files" who so ably cut her period-piece teeth on "House of Mirth," the underrated adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel. Anderson's task here is tough, to portray a highly unsympathetic character who gradually becomes enormously likable. Her diffident air and regal bearing are put to great use, along with her quavering fragility.-- Chicago Tribune

Looking icily funereal, Anderson is indelible as Dickens's Lady Dedlock, entrapped by the mistakes of her past. Lady Dedlock suffers every moment of her dreary life, frozen-faced at a window as if in mourning for her own spirit. And Anderson suffers magnificently, with more world-weariness in her visage than you might expect from an actress famous for her network appeal. She pronounces Lady Ded-lock's sentences in a slow sigh, with unbearably weighty sorrow. Anderson doesn't have the most screen time in ''Bleak House," but she effectively casts tragedy and regret over the whole thing. -- The Boston Globe

Memories of high school required-reading lists and English class essays have put some people off Charles Dickens for good. But seeing just a few minutes of this adaptation of Dickens' Bleak House might change their minds.The production is gorgeous with unstinting detail, with this caveat: Even though the filthy streets and ghastly poorhouses are by no means whitewashed, they are so artfully photographed that their strange beauty rivals that of the aristocrats' manor houses. Who better to wrestle Dickens' epic story onto the screen than Andrew Davies, who adapted the wicked House of Cards and charming Pride and Prejudice for television and the delightful Bridget Jones's Diary for the movies. Such a pedigree brightens Bleak House's appeal and might even persuade the reluctant among us to give Dickens another try. -- USA Today

Quality alert. Acclaimed British writer-producer Andrew Davies, who scored with presentations of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Vanity Fair," does it again with an elegant eight-hour adaptation of the sweeping Charles Dickens epic of bitter family intrigue. In her first TV role since "The X-Files," Gillian Anderson is a standout as tormented, icily beautiful Lady Dedlock in this haunting tale that mixes romance, mystery, political satire and comedy of manners. Like those cartoon Guinness guys say, "Brilliant!" -- Detroit Free Press

Years can go by, and have, before a PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation lives up to that promising name - but "Bleak House," the new eight-hour adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, is fabulous in every respect. It's the best Dickensian adaptation since another purposefully sprawling miniseries, the theatrically staged "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby." Anyone tuning in out of curiosity will be hooked instantly, from Gillian Anderson's first appearance and first words. Each half-hour of the drama provides a cliffhanger, making "Bleak House" a kind of Victorian "24." It's a great romp, brimming with performances and lines that won't soon be forgotten. This venerable PBS anthology series begins its 36th season with one of its all-time finest presentations. Other than the title, there's nothing "Bleak" about it. 4 Stars -- New York Daily News

Ever since "The X-Files" ended, we just haven't seen enough of Gillian Anderson. Fortunately, she makes a welcome return in this sumptuous, six-part "Masterpiece Theatre" adaptation of Charles Dickens' ninth novel. Anderson plays the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock, who has a dangerous and secretive link to a dead man. But she's just one thread -- albeit a major one -- in a sometimes daunting tangle of plotlines and characters that are tied, in some way, to a nasty inheritance dispute. Skillfully adapted by Andrew Davies, "Bleak House" works on multiple levels as a gripping legal thriller, a juicy romance and piquant social commentary. Step inside and make yourself comfortable. -- Chuck Barney, Knight Ridder

At eight hours, spread over six Sunday nights, the BBC's miniseries of "Bleak House" may seem as daunting as Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the never-ending legal case at the drama's heart. Be not afraid. This adaptation of the doorstop Dickens novel is one of the best TV events of the new year. ...Andrew Davies' adaptation keeps up with all the memorable characters, and the writer does the novel one better: He transforms the simpering Esther into a character you don't want to backhand. (It helps that Maxwell Martin plays her with warmth and delicacy.) For "X-Files" fans - but not for anyone who saw her in the 2000 feature "The House of Mirth" - Anderson's Lady Dedlock will be a revelation, a glamorous mix of hauteur and despair. Shown last year in the UK in half-hour installments, twice a week, the miniseries sometimes resorts to whiplash, MTV-style edits. Luckily, these would-be hip touches are only a mild distraction. Fair warning: Sunday's two-hour introduction may be the most confusing of the episodes. If you stick with it, though, you're likely to be hooked. Of the novel's many characters, only one major player doesn't make it into the miniseries: the dense London fog that Dickens used as a metaphor. Reportedly, whenever the film crew cranked up their smoke machines, the wind blew it all away.While they didn't get the fog, the makers of "Bleak House" got everything else right. Grade A -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gillian Anderson (of "The X-Files" fame) is brilliant in Bleak House (PBS, Sundays from Jan. 22 to Feb. 26, check local listings). Luminous and mysterious, Lady Dedlock is the flame around whom swirl a variety of heated love stories, a terrible secret, and one of Charles Dickens's most insidious villains - a lawyer who ferrets out truth, but never justice. -- Christian Science Monitor Picks