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Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas
11.24.2017
6 10

PLOT: Reeling from three flops in a row, author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is inspired to write the immortal “A Christmas Carol”, but first must contend with his own demons, in the form of an imagined Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer).

REVIEW: Well, it’s been a few years since the last movie version of “A Christmas Carol” so I suppose we were about due. One of the most filmed stories of all time, the 1843 novella still strikes a chord around this time of year, even though the story has been co-opted so much people rarely remember how dark the original Dickens volume was (although the classic Alistair Sim version channeled this beautifully by adopting a gothic sensibility).

This darkness is explained in THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS by presenting Dickens, as played by Dan Stevens, as a bit of a troubled soul. By focusing on the creative process, director Bharat Nalluri has given the story a unique spin, while still hitting all the classic moments, by making Dickens himself the Scrooge surrogate.

It’s actually an interesting companion piece to the recent THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, which charted Dickens’s life fifteen years later, by which time his place in the pantheon was assured. If you’ve seen that, you know he was a complicated man who acted callously towards his family, and to its credit, THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS, while a much cuddlier film, doesn’t present him has a saint.

Stevens, while still adopting a certain stammering charm, turns up the ego on Dickens, with him constantly complaining about sales and his ever-growing family. He’s not a jerk per se, but he’s complicated. The film explores the childhood trauma he suffered thanks to his father’s (Jonathan Pryce) mounting debt, landing the family in debtor’s prison.

At the same time, the story Dickens is writing is illustrated by him conjuring up the characters, based on casual acquaintances, to give him inspiration. The Scrooge stand-in, played by a magnificent Christopher Plummer (how could he not have already played Scrooge in a movie?) torments him about his failings as a family man and person, serving as a defacto Ghost of Christmas Past, Present & Future.

Nalluri’s certainly mounted a handsome period romp, although it perhaps lacks the budget to really give the film a big-screen scope, with it playing, at times, like solid TV rather than a feature (a streaming service would be its natural home). Even still, it’s a good vehicle for Stevens, who’s proving to be one of the more charismatic actors of his generation. While I think he’s at his best totally playing against type in films like THE GUEST, he suits the period milieu here and plays Dickens with enough of a twinkle in his eye to make his selfishness palatable.

In the end, THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS is a perfect serviceable look at Dickens and the writing of “A Christmas Carol”. It’s certainly a more original take than yet another adaptation would have been, and the story behind the story is intriguing. For fans of Dickens or British period drama addicts (you know who you are), this is a solid holiday watch.


Source: JoBlo.com

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