The case Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been in the courts for generations. There are multiple wills that say who will inherit a large fortune, but no one knows who is the rightful heir. Esther Summerson, an orphan raised by a Miss Barnaby, is taken into the care of John Jarndyce, a kind, older man with two wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. Meanwhile, Lady Dedlock, wife of Sir Leicester Dedlock, holds a secret from her husband which has attracted the interest of unscrupulous lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn.
There are a number of recognizable cast members in Bleak House. Anna Maxwell Martin (Esther Summerson) can also be seen in North and South as Bessy Higgins. Gillian Anderson (Lady Dedlock) can also be seen in Great Expectations (2011) as Miss Havisham. Pauline Collins (Miss Flite) can also be seen in the first two series of Upstairs, Downstairs as underhouse parlor maid Sarah. Alun Armstrong (Bucket) can also be seen in Little Dorrit as Flintwinch and in The Mystery of Edwin Drood as Mr. Grewgious. Richard Harrington (Allan Woodcourt) can also be seen in Series 4 of Lark Rise to Candleford as Gabriel Cochrane. Joanna David (Mrs. Badger) can be seen in various period dramas including Pride and Prejudice (1995) and He Knew He Was Right
Like in Little Dorrit, Bleak House has a variety of characters. Some are likable, others you practically can't stand. This section of my review may run a little long, just a warning.
Let's start with the likable characters, shall we?
First, let's start with our heroine, Esther Summerson. Esther is a very sweet character and probably one of the least flawed (if not the least flawed) characters in Bleak House. She is a very caring person and I very quickly liked her. Even though it risks her health, she takes care of a poor boy named Jo, and nearly dies from contracting small pox from him which leaves scars on her face (which eventually mostly fade by the end of Bleak House). She is very close with both Ada and Richard. Her and Ada do not keep secrets from each other: Spoiler when Esther has to keep the secret about her being Lady Dedlock's daughter from Ada, it causes a little bit of a rift between them, but despite this, they still remain good friends. End of Spoiler
|Richard Carstone and Ada Clare|
In a way, I also liked Lady Dedlock... Or probably more accurately, I felt sorry for her. She has a huge burden on her heart that she has to keep from Sir Leicester and is hassled by Mr. Tulkinghorn at the same time. Spoiler After thinking for all those years that the daughter she had was dead, she finds out that her daughter is alive and is Esther, but they can't see each other after she tells Esther that she is her mother. I was hoping that everything would work out in the end and that Esther and Lady Dedlock can see each other (even if Sir Leicester knew and Esther could visit them in the evenings privately or something), but alas! it didn't work out. End of Spoiler
Now onto the irritating characters.
|Mr. Harold Skimpole|
|Mr. Tulkinghorn (above) and|
Mr. Smallweed (below)
And sure, there are plenty of minor characters that I could go through, but I'm only going through the main characters. As it is, this section is very, very long! :-P I'll end this section by saying that yes, there is a verdict to the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, and it will have you face-palming yourself.
|Secrets to be revealed!|
The music is very serious throughout the miniseries, excepting the wedding song at the end. The wedding song is very, very similar to a song that is in Downton Abbey (John Lunn composed the music for both Bleak House and Downton Abbey). The music overall is very good and worth listening to.
The costuming is very nice! Just by looking at the costumes, I would say that the story takes place sometime in the 1840s or the early 1850s; though since Dickens published Bleak House in the 1850s, I'm inclined to think it takes place in the early 1850s.
Lady Dedlock has a number of lovely dresses! The dark green striped dress that she wear when, I believe, when she is traveling can also be seen in North and South on Margaret Hale during the final scene. Personally, I think Lady Dedlock pulled off the dress better (for some reason, I didn't like that dress on Margaret Hale, but that's another period drama, isn't it? ;-) ). Lady Dedlock also wears some nice fichus, some of which are embroidered. But overall, Lady Dedlock's dresses are fairly dark, which would go with her character.
|Esther with John Jarndyce|
Esther and Ada also have nice dresses. Unlike Lady Dedlock, their dresses are brighter and have more color to them (though Esther does have a couple of darker dresses). Instead of wearing the decorated fichus that Lady Dedlock wears, Esther has a little bit of lace along the neckline of some of her dresses.
Bonnets... There were plenty of nice head wear in Bleak House. Lady Dedlock had hats and bonnets while the other ladies had bonnets. As with the dresses, Lady Dedlock's bonnets were dark while Ada's and Esther's were lighter and more colorful.
Upon viewing the first episode, I didn't think I would very much like Bleak House as much as other period dramas, but once I watched more of it, I got very interested and very into the plot. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot that really keep you watching. Careful, you may go too quickly through it and get the feelings that I related to here.
Content wise, there is some violence and a few people die, some alcoholism, and a very brief scene containing opium (though this scene is divided between episodes), but nothing is graphic. There is also a scene that takes place in a morgue; it's not graphic, but it can be a little creepy. I would probably rate Bleak House TV-PG for content.
Bleak House is available on DVD and is currently on Netflix. It runs for 510 minutes: it is made up of fifteen half hour episodes (though on Netflix they put everything into 8 episodes that combined 2 episodes in one episode).