Oliver Twist

Release Date: September 23, 2005
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Limited release

Movie of the Day for Thursday, March 10, 2005
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Wait, your sister is my sister too?  What a coincidence!

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
78/85 Kim Hollis Wow, was I ever mad at the end of this. The story was butchered to the point that it's not even Dickensian. *shakes fist*
115/166 David Mumpower Please, sir. I want no more, sir.

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Born in a workhouse in 1830s England, young Oliver becomes an orphan almost immediately after his birth as his mother is found in the street. No one knows her name, so the infant is sent to a terribly-run orphanage for the first nine years of his life, followed by a transfer to a workhouse for adults. When some of the other boys bully the young man to ask the famous question, "Please, sir, may I have some more?", Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, pits out the offer of five pounds to anyone who will get the boy out of the workhouse. Though Oliver is nearly apprenticed to a rough-natured chimney sweep, he winds up escaping that fate and instead works with a local undertaker named Mr. Sowerberry. After one of the other apprentices makes withering comments about Oliver's mother, Oliver gets into a fight with the young man and his boss is mightily displeased. Our desperate hero runs off and makes his way to London.

By the time he reaches the city, exhausted and hungry, Oliver meets a boy named Jack Dawkins, who offers shelter at the home of a man called Fagin. As it happens, Fagin is a long-time criminal who cleverly trains orphan boys to become pickpockets in his employ. After learning the "trade" for a few days, Oliver is sent out in the company of a couple of other boys and is horrified when he sees them steal for real. Though Oliver runs away, he is caught and just barely manages to escape conviction for the crime. The results are happy, though, as Mr. Brownlow, their victim, takes our hero into his home and nurses him back to health. Part of this unexpected care comes from the fact that Mr. Brownlow sees an unexpected similarity between young Oliver and a portrait of a woman that hangs in his home.

Alas, it's not long before two young adults from Fagin's gang, Bill Sikes and his lover Nancy, have arrived to capture Oliver and return him to the criminal fold. The boy is sent to assist the brutal thief Sikes in a burglary, but they are caught in the act. Oliver is shot and Sikes runs away. Again, such misfortune proves to be Oliver's friend, though, as the women who live in the home where he and Sikes attempted the crime take him in. Mrs. Maylie and her beautiful adopted niece Rose care for him for an entire glorious summer in the countryside. The boy even learns that his mother left behind a locket for him when she died. But such happiness just isn't in the cards for our young hero, as Fagin and his associate Monks plot to grab the boy once again.

Monks gets a hold of the aforementioned locket and destroys it, but Sikes' girlfriend Nancy surreptitiously meets with the Maylies to let them know about the impending plans of Fagin's gang. From there, as in all of Charles Dickens' tales, a series of resounding coincidences are set into motion that will bring all of the events that preceded to a most satisfactory and "Aha!" inducing close. And there's an arc with the Artful Dodger that is most memorable as well.

It's a long-time favorite story of English teachers and students alike, and lends itself quite well to a theatrical adaptation. As a result, it's been the subject of such stories more than 20 times, including a Disney cartoon version with dogs and cats (Oliver and Co.) and the 1968 Academy Award winner for Best Picture (Oliver!). Now the story will once again be tackled by the controversial and talented Roman Polanski, most recently seen winning the 2003 Academy Award for Best Director for his work on The Pianist. While playing with his children, Polanski realized that he'd like to make a movie for kids, a fact that is likely to be the cause of some hullabaloo as the man is currently unable to return to the states as he faces arrest for a 1977 case accusing him of having unlawful sexual relations with a minor.

Oliver Twist will shoot in the Czech Republic from a screenplay by Ronald Harwood, who also penned the script for The Pianist. At the very least, the film should generate a firestorm of debate, and at best, it will be another awards contender for the storied director. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

April 26, 2004
Ben Kingsley has signed for the supporting role of Fagin, while 10-year-old British actor Barney Clark will take on the title role. Jamie Foreman and Frank Finlay (The Pianist) will also costar. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Vital statistics for Oliver Twist
Main Cast Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Jamie Foreman
Supporting Cast Frank Finlay
Director Roman Polanski
Screenwriter Ronald Harwood
Distributor Sony Pictures Classics
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/olivertwist/
Rating PG-13
Running Time 130 minutes
Screen Count 5
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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