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Dan's Review: Spirit of giving awakens in "The Man Who Invented Christmas"

Nov 22, 2017 06:06PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer in The Man Who Invented Christmas - © 2017 Bleeker Street.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Bleeker Street)

Rated PG for thematic elements and some mild language.

Starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Donald Sumpter, Miriam Margolyes, Morfydd Clark, Justin Edwards, Ian McNeice, Bill Paterson, Anna Murphy, Eddie Jackson, Neil Slevin, Paul Kealyn, Aleah Lennon, Ger Ryan, Ely Solan.

Written by Susan Coyne, based on the book by Les Standiford.

Directed by Bharat Nalluri.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been adapted many, many times for the stage, the big screen and television so many times, it’s hard to count. The Man Who Invented Christmas takes a different approach, exploring the conditions and events that inspired Dickens to write the beloved novel.

Dan Stevens portrays Dickens, the successful writer stuck in a funk after three failures. After overhearing Tara (Anna Murphy) regale his children with Irish legends of Christmas spirits, he comes up with the idea for A Christmas Carol. Not sure where to begin, he witnesses the funeral of a man whose only participant is a curmudgeonly business partner (Christopher Plummer), who mumbles the word “Humbug” after the services. Using the stranger as a template, Dickens conjures up Ebenezer Scrooge, whose persona visits him in his study as he struggles to write the story. Scrooge digs at the writer, prompting him to examine the relationship with his own dad (Jonathan Price), a scheming, but loving man whose misdeeds led to a rough childhood for Charles. Faced with his own impending financial hardship, Dickens pledges to get the book in print before Christmas 1843, only six weeks away. As he delves deeper into story, more of his own relationships are laid bare, as Scrooge continues poke at Charles, adding to his doubts as a writer, son, father and husband. Dicken’s troubled childhood and the need to forgive his father lie at the center of the “Christmas” spirit he seeks to inspire. Along the way, real life characters inspire the characters in the book, including Charles’ best friend/manager John Forster (Justin Edwards), who fills in the persona of the “Ghost of Christmas Present.” Dickens’ sickly nephew inspires “Tiny Tim,” Tara represents “Christmas Past, and a ruthless creditor becomes the backdrop for Jacob Marley. As Charles’ tale comes to a close, he must face the demons of his own past, and embrace the true spirit of giving that accompanies Christmas.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a beautiful story (mostly accurate) with a wonderful message about giving of one’s self. There are many thoughtful scenes that examine the best of humanity as inspired by the holiday, and the case is well-made for Dickens as the man who brought personal giving into the religious rite, creating a greater sense of charity and compassion for those who may be suffering. It also bolsters the idea of redemption, even for those who may be deemed as lost causes. Pretty sure we all feel that way sometimes.

Dan Stevens’ performance is well-done in the role of the famed writer, but it’s Plummer who delivers the heart and soul of The Man Who Invented Christmas. His Scrooge has to be one of the best ever.


The Man Who Invented Christmas Trailer

Arts+Entertainment movies movie reviews Christmas literature Dickens

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