The Personal History of David Copperfield

Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! In a single scene from The Personal History of David Copperfield, David (Dev Patel) bangs his noggin four times, channeling the deliciously manic energy that director Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin) brings to this adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel. Tales of orphans looking for love and profit are ripe for slick sentiment, but Iannucci amplifies the story's comedic absurdities without sacrificing its emotional force. At 119 minutes, the film is too trim—an extra half-hour would have allowed Iannucci to more credibly chronicle David's transformation from a child laborer in a bottling factory into a gangly yet graceful gentleman. Yet there's no resisting the cast (especially Peter Capaldi as the merry charlatan Mr. Micawber and Ben Whishaw as the pious swindler Uriah Heep), and while Iannucci revels in the story's goofier episodes—including the theft of a concertina from a pawnshop—he captures David's growth with moving sincerity. "Don't worry," David tells his younger self in a fantasy scene. "You'll make it through." At a moment when too many of us are wondering if we'll make it, that message of resilience is at once inspiring and comforting. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Virtual Cinema.

Measure for Measure

If you ever wanted to see a Shakespeare movie with a mass shooting, now is your chance. The Bard may have written Measure for Measure as a comedy, but director Paul Ireland has reimagined it as a grim crime flick. The film updates the story (and the dialogue) for modern-day Melbourne, where two young lovers, Jaiwara and Claudio (Megan Hajjar and Harrison Gilbertson), are wrenched apart by a false accusation. Their last hope is Duke (Hugo Weaving), a slovenly gangster whose imperious beard is matched only by his power in the Australian underworld. Weaving (who also played the sinister Agent Smith in The Matrix) is as lordly as ever, and Hajjar and Gilbertson are sweet as two kids whose towering passions belie their tender ages. Yet their performances can't conceal the film's failure to answer the questions about love, loyalty and religion that it raises. Jaiwara is a Muslim immigrant, but Measure for Measure callously dismisses faith as an annoying obstacle to her love life. It's enough to make you wonder if the film believes in anything at all, or if its pretensions are as flimsy as Duke's signature burgundy bathrobe. NR. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. On Demand.