David Copperfield | 1999
Movie based on Charles Dickens' classic novel, "David Copperfield." Traces David Copperfield's life from his unhappy boyhood in the Salem House Academy to his triumph in life and love.
David Copperfield is born shortly after the death of his father. Young David has a happy childhood, with a memorable visit to his nanny Peggotty's relatives, who live in a ship house on the coast. On his return, he finds his mother has married Mr. Murdstone, a paranoid disciplinarian. When David bites Murdstone during a beating, the boy is sent to a boarding school run by the severe Mr. Creakle. There, he falls under the protection of Steerforth, an older student. When David's mother dies, his stepfather sends him to work at a sweatshop in London. Again, David finds a patron -- this time Mr. Micawber, a profligate family man with whom he lodges. But Micawber is soon sent to debtor's prison, and David is homeless. Destitute, David walks to Dover where he has heard his Aunt Betsey lives. She offers him a nurturing home, shared with her lunatic lodger, Mr. Dick. David matures into a young man, with bright prospects before him.
David resides with Aunt Betsey's lawyer, Mr. Wickfield and his daughter Agnes. Wickfield's obsequious clerk, Uriah Heep, lurks malevolently on the margins. Meanwhile, David is apprenticed to another laywer, Mr. Spenlow, who has a charming if flighty daughter, Dora. Oblivious to the charms of Agnes, whom he treats as a sister, David falls in love with Dora and begins courting her, although her father disapproves. Unbeknownst to all, Heep has his eye on Agnes and on Wickfield's business.
By chance, David encounters his old schoolboy hero, Steerforth. Together, they set forth to visit the ship house, where reside: David's old nanny, Peggotty; her taciturn husband, Barkis; Peggotty's fisherman brother, Daniel; his nephew, Ham; and Ham's cousin and fiancee, Little Em'ly. Secretly enamored with Em'ly, the unscrupulous Steerforth convinces her to run away with him. Daniel sets out in hot pursuit, following them through many countries.
More villainy unfolds as Heep ruins not only Wickfield but Aunt Betsey, who with Mr. Dick comes to live with David. Meanwhile, Micawber has reentered the picture as Heep's reluctant clerk. Wickfield expires, leaving Dora penniless and hence a fitting match for the equally destitute David. They marry and David pursues his new career as an author, but Dora, too, soon dies. Micawber exposes Heep's financial fraud, restoring Aunt Betsey's wealth. Daniel finally tracks down Em'ly, who has been abandoned to an appalling life by Steerforth. Just as David arrives at the ship house with news of Em'ly's rescue, Ham dies in a storm while trying to rescue a drowning man, who turns out to be Steerforth. David and Agnes are married; and the Micawbers, Daniel and Emily start a new life in Australia.