The Man Who Invented Christmas
dir Bharat Nalluri
scr Susan Coyne
prd Niv Fichman, Vadim Jean, Robert Mickelson, Susan Mullen, Ian Sharples
with Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Morfydd Clark, Justin Edwards, Anna Murphy, Donald Sumpter, Ger Ryan, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow, Miles Jupp, Ian McNeice, Bill Paterson, Annette Badland
release US 22.Nov.17, UK 1.Dec.17
17/UK 1h44
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Bah, humbug: Stevens and Plummer

pryce clark margolyes
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Man Who Invented Christmas When it was published in 1843, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol transformed a relatively low-key religious holiday into a more prominent cultural event. This cheerful British period comedy sets out to trace how he was inspired to write the story in just six weeks. It's all rather contrived, straining to explain the artistic process with lively visual gags. But it's sharply well-made and solidly entertaining.

Britain's most famous author, Dickens (Stevens) is worried that his last three books failed to sell. In a financial pinch, he's struggling to find an idea for his next one, and it doesn't help that his wife Kate (Clark) is pregnant or that his boisterous parents (Pryce and Ryan) drop in for a visit. Then finally, the character of Scrooge (Plummer) comes to him, and he begins drawing inspiration from people and places around him. But his publisher (Sumpter) isn't sure there's a market for a Christmas book, so Dickens decides to publish it himself.

Director Nalluri maintains the usual sumptuous, twinkly production values of a lavish British period movie, then thankfully undercuts it with some darkly witty touches. Avoiding sentimentality in these kinds of movies can't be easy, but he makes a solid effort, letting details from Dickens' real life and the plot of his classic novella provide the emotional undercurrents. The cast is up for this approach, never over-egging performances while clearly having a lot of fun trying to steal scenes from each other.

Stevens anchors things with an energetic turn that's charming with a hint of edginess, depicting Dickens as an obsessive writer who tuned out those around him while he wallowed in his fictional characters. As his father and wife, Pryce and Clark both have some very strong scenes, and Plummer brings some sparky attitude to his role as the literary character who torments his creator alongside various other colourful figures.

There's a nagging sense that this film was only conceived to find a new angle into the classic story, without actually offering anything original. But underneath the silly flourishes, the approach does offer some intriguing insights into the mysteries and challenges of writing fiction, as well as the role stories play in our lives. And there's also the point that, when they catch the public imagination, stories can actually have a lasting impact on society. Because Christmas has never been the same since Dickens got hold of it.

cert pg themes, language 11.Oct.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall