Movie review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

If you are familiar with Charles Dickens’s two timeless novels, Oliver Twist ] and Great Expectations which is irreplaceably in my all-time top ten – A Tale of Two Cities I had to read at school, which blinded me to its worth), you might have trouble aligning Dan Stevens’s at times flippant portrayal of the 19th century’s prolific writer/speaker/polemicist with the man who is presented in the archives. For a start he hasn’t got that scraggly goatee. In director Bharat Nalluri’s depiction of Dickens, there is also a jokiness that is similar to that of Joseph Fiennes’s flighty Bard in Shakespeare in Love (1998) – not that there is anything wrong with breaking the mould owned by academia’s dry sobriety. It is 1843 and, following a triumphant tour of America, Dickens has had little success with his most recent works. In October of that year, under pressure from his publishers, who are dangling before him a much-needed advance for a new manuscript, and supported by his friend and confidante John Forster (Justin Edwards), who encourages and prods him to properly understand his characters (especially Ebenezer Scrooge), Dickens puts pen to paper and embarks on A Christmas Carol. In a screenplay by Susan Coyne that is mirthful without ever losing sight of the serious intent of the message that Dickens was sending to his readers, humour is evenly balanced with the stress of his being a husband supporting a large family. Even better, the story delves deep into the creative process, as we see the writer overpowered by the people whom he has brought to life through the words on his pages – especially in the case of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, Methuselah of the silver screen). Drawn back to the bottom line, Dickens taps into his own deprived youth as a factory worker. The title of the movie might be overstating the impact that Dickens had on the festive season, but that Christmas has degenerated into a month of carnal, mindless consumerism is our problem, not his.

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