Last week I shelled out $3.99 to watch Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 adaptation of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. I did this in spite of clear facts: I dislike Gwyneth Paltrow, the movie is bad, and I haven’t read more than 5 pages of any Dickens novel.
An instagram post piqued my interested on the movie. I read that the wardrobe for Paltrow’s character was exclusively Donna Karan. Until now, I haven’t heard of a costume designer using one designer’s collection for a character’s wardrobe.
Judianna Makovsky, the Costume Designer, had a seemingly impossible and almost pathological hill to climb for Great Expectations.
Cuarón was obsessed with green. He featured it on almost every set and costume for every character, both major and minor. I don’t revel in sharing this since this knowing this fact made the movie annoying. I, myself, am not a huge green fan, but it’s many people’s second favorite color.
Turns out I’m not the only naysayer. Of Paltrow’s response, Cuarón shared Paltrow’s response which was a simple oh my god. The actress also shared, ”Alfonso has a green problem. I think he’s clinically insane, but in a very charming way.”
I don’t envy Makovsky for having to work green into so many costumes throughout the movie. However, for the limited palette, her work was superb. Cuarón gave Makovsky permission to branch out in colors ranging from khaki to dark black green. How . . . thrilling. In a way, it’s limiting and freeing. But it feels mostly annoying. There’s some folklore about the movie’s wardrobe that gets the story wrong. Many wrongfully attribute the wardrobe’s design to Donna Karan since Makovsky used her Fall ’96 collection for Paltrow’s character. But Makovsky deserves the credit for making this green fever dream come true.
“Some days it makes me insane, and sometimes it makes it easier,” said Makovsky of the palette. ”But all films have a palette, and you have to keep in mind that green can be anywhere from khaki to dark black green.”
Part of me wonders if Cuarón’s obsession with green overshadowed other parts of the film, like oh, it being good. In a New York Times article from 1996, both the director and producer lamented that the film might indeed suck. In several other articles, the producer and director somewhat unironically fretted over if the movie would be good or not. Be careful what you manifest.
“You can go the way of ‘Clueless, which is terrifically funny and broad, or you can take it seriously, which is what we’re doing. It’s one way or the other,” co-producer John Linson said, “And if we fall into the cracks between, I’ll be opening up a film clinic in Argentina.” Linson appears to be living in the U.S. And he gave us Sons of Anarchy, so maybe he could be forgiven for Great Expectations.
There’s a million other things that I could write about this bizarre, not very good film and this post is only scratching the very green surface.