Sunday, December 3, 2017

Movie Review … The Man Who Invented Christmas

Around this time there are a slew of movies celebrating Christmas.  Many are usually of the saccharine-sweet comedic variety showing the ‘joys’ and ‘magic’ of the season.  A few dare to put a darker spin such as the ‘Bad Santa’ films.  Based on Les Standiford’s book, ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ is a blend of those styles.  Neither dark nor light, its’ shades of grey makes for refreshing viewing.  Mixing fact and fiction, it weaves its own Christmas sparkle without the typical sentimental overload.

Suffering from the commercial failure of his recent books, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is in a bind.  It’s October 1843 and he needs to find a way to support his young family.  Nearing the Christmas period, he decides to write a novel called ‘A Christmas Carol’.  Basing its characters on real life, including his father John (Jonathan Pryce) as his fictional character Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Dickens is on a creative roll.  As his work of fiction takes shape, his mind wanders between fantasy and reality as his own ghosts of past, present and future spur him to the finish line.

‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ is a consistently enjoyable yuletide yarn.  While it drags towards the end, the screenplay cleverly blends the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ tale with Dickens’ life.  The fictional elements may seem fanciful but this perfectly mirrors ‘A Christmas Carol’s’ fantastical strands that made it stand out.  Viewers will have to take the factual moments with a pinch of salt as well.  The script may not be quite accurate in this regard but it makes for interesting speculation as to how Dickens came up with such a timeless tale.

The strong performances enable ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ to ground itself in some form of reality. Although this may sound strange, it’s crucial in making the fantasy bits work.  Dickens’ world isn’t too glossy and proper with dirt and grime clearly seen.  Despite a few moments of sentimentality, the script has a quirky sense of humour and isn’t afraid of venturing into darker aspects of the human psyche.  Stevens conveys the frustrated genius of Dickens well with Plummer making for a very snarky Scrooge.  The production design is great with the unobtrusive score effectively highlighting scenes.

As sure as night follows day, there will always be a Christmas movie around that time.  Whilst most are to be avoided, ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ isn’t one of them.  Those from the ‘bah humbug’ school of charm may even enjoy it as it sprinkles some whimsy across movie screens.

Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.



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