Release Date: November 22nd, 2017
Throughout the years, there have been numerous cinematic adaptations of A Christmas Carol. From Reginald Owen playing the infamous Scrooge in the 1938 film to George C. Scott portraying the figure in a 1984 adaptation to Michael Caine playing the character in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), the story about the crotchety figure c has been told numerous times..
The new film The Man who Invented Christmas offers a different perspective of the oft-told story. It tells the story of Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) himself, who struggles with writer’s block while trying to write the novel.
When the feature begins in 1842, Dickens is celebrating the worldwide success of his novel Oliver Twist. But only one year later Dickens’ exuberance and acclaim has dissipated. Three flops followed the publication of Oliver Twist. Dickens has now returned to reality and realized he’s financially overextended.
Only a few weeks shy of Christmas, the author realizes he wants to write a story about Christmas and have it published before December 25th. It’s a daunting task.
At first, the pacing of the film lags but as Dickens becomes inspired, his mind and the feature’s pace quickly accelerate. From a waiter’s unique name to a brief encounter with a mysterious stranger (Christopher Plummer), Dickens suddenly comes alive with new ideas from his daily experiences.
“Get the name right and then if you’re lucky, the character will appear,” he says. That happens as soon as Dickens settles on the name Scrooge for his main character.
A vision of the mysterious stranger soon appears to Dickens as the money-hungry character himself. Plummer plays the cantankerous Scrooge as an annoyed businessman whose wanton words inspire Dickens. Although Scrooge is a figure that appears only in Dickens’ mind, he and fellow characters from the novel delightfully interact with their literary creator. Plummer particularly delights in his role and the scenes featuring Dickens facing off against Scrooge are strangely invigorating.
The screenplay by Susan Coyne (which was adapted from the Les Standiford book) carefully crafts this unique relationship between the duo. Scrooge inspires Dickens while lamenting the author’s shortcomings. “My character doesn’t explain his side of things,” Scrooge notes, arguing with the person who brought him to life.
The world that director Bharat Nalluri brings to life though isn’t a simple one though. Dickens’ world is packed with strong supporting characters that add depth to the story. Jonathan Pryce and Ger Ryan play the parents of Charles Dickens while Morfydd Clark plays his wife. Dickens’ writing happens in the midst of the holiday season and these secondary characters help establish the author’s troubled past.
As Dickens nears the conclusion of his process, there’s a great debate here in terms of the fate of Tiny Tim. The script really brings Dickens’ creative quandary to the forefront showing how the author struggles with deciding the fate of one of his characters. Elements like this ring true in capturing the creative process and how tricky it can be.
As Dickens writes, he’s affected by the individuals surrounding him and his own history, which makes the novel so urgent to him.
A Christmas Carol was clearly important for Dickens on a multitude of levels and it’s refreshing to see the creative process unfold in such a unique way here. The Man who Invented Christmas is about much more than an author struggling with a new book. It’s about an author struggling with his past, his present and his future.
A fitting way to tell the story about the man who wrote A Christmas Carol.
Review by: John Hanlon