Review / ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ (PG) ***

THIS is an easy film to watch but you might be forgiven for being a tad incredulous about its claim to telling how Charles Dickens came to write “A Christmas Carol”.

First editions of “Nicholas Nickleby”, “The Old Curiosity Shop” and “Barnaby Rudge” had not topped the charts. By 1843, financially strapped Dickens needed a success. For reasons that director Bharat Nalluri and novelist Les Standiford know best, he decided to write and self-publish all within six weeks, a short novel about Christmas.

“A Christmas Carol” does not typify modern observations of Christmas. Its message is about friendship, kindliness and generosity, virtues that are nowadays suborned to a mercantile monstrosity that overwhelms what drove Dickens to write it.

Susan Coyne’s screenplay adapts Standiford’s novel to offer Dan Stevens a chance to rather overplay Dickens. Christopher Plummer plays Scrooge and Jonathan Pryce plays Charles’ father John. The supporting cast includes Ian McNeice as publisher Chapman, Morfydd Clark as Dickens’ wife, Miriam Margolyes as his housekeeper and Justin Edwards as his friend in difficult times.

The plot rumbles along among ghosts and 19th century London until Dickens finds a printer who, if the film is to be believed, sets, prints, binds and sells the whole of the first edition in six days. Tiny Tim calls for a blessing on us every one. Then we get on with buying gifts we can’t afford for people we don’t like and prepare to guzzle northern-hemisphere dishes as we sit among glitzy decorations and sing songs about winter.

I wonder how things might have been if Mary hadn’t conceived her baby six months earlier or later and borne him at the northern-hemisphere summer solstice. Since leaving home as a teenager, I haven’t enjoyed Christmas. Bah humbug, do I hear somebody say? The best thing about it is the music. Next best is a seafood lunch with a bottle of frosty fizz.

At Capitol 6 and Hoyts Belconnen

 

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