The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) – reviewed by George

The story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) came to write “A Christmas Carol”, with some insight into his process, is really interesting and surprisingly Christmasy.
New York City, 1842: Basking in the success of “Oliver Twist”, Dickens embarked on a tour of America. Fans in every city staged galas to welcome the literary sensation. The enthusiasm (and noise) of each theater-filling crowd was amazing – and unbearable. Charles couldn’t wait to get home.
London, October 1843: Sixteen months and three flops later (“Martin Chuzzlewitt”, “Barnaby Rudge”, and “American Notes”) and critics are having him for lunch, calling attention to his habit of making up names never before heard of, using snatches of overheard conversation from the streets, daring to write about poor people, and so on. All things for which he is venerated today. And surprisingly one of his harshest critics was William Makepeace Thackeray (Miles Jupp), whom I always think of as a humorist.
The tics of Dickens’s process are all shown as he struggles to write his new book in time to get it illustrated and printed at least a few days before Christmas. And we see his family history and his dislike of his father (Jonathan Pryce), and we learn that he, as a child (Ely Solan) actually worked in a factory during one of his father’s stays in the poor house. We also see the thing critics of his day abhorred: his habit of naming his characters after people he meets in daily life, i.e. a waiter named Marley. And we see how he conjured up characters and spoke with them, argued with them even. Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) appears early and hangs on, arguing for his prejudices and cruelty.
Charles’s household staff was overseen by his housekeeper, Mrs. Fisk (Miriam Margolyes), and included the young woman Tara (Anna Murphy), who also plays the Ghost of Christmas Past. Charles’s friend and agent John Forster (Justin Edwards), also plays the Ghost of Christmas Present. Morfydd Clark plays Dickens’s wife and Ger Ryan plays his mother.
From the script: “A Christmas Carol was published December 19th, 1843, and by Christmas every copy had been sold. And charitable giving soared. It became one of the best-selling books of all time, forever changing the way we celebrate Christmas, reminding us of the joys of friendship, kindness, and generosity.”
So the film is more than a chronicle of how Dickens broke his streak of failures with a huge success; it teaches us again why we love Christmas so much, and delight in wishing others, “Merry Christmas!”, for happiness is indeed contagious.
Based on the Book by Les Standiford, Written by Susan Coyne, Directed by Bharat Nalluri.

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