I had every intention of catching this in theaters in order to review it for my 'Now Playing' page for Christmas of 2017. Alas, I missed out, and I haven't bothered to check it out until this year. I'm happy to say that I've actually found a new Christmas movie I like enough to try to spread the word about. To me, this has become a hidden gem among Christmas movies over the past couple of years. People don't seem to talk much about it, but let me tell you, its execution is something that's right up my alley.
Taking place in 1843, this is the story of a struggling Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens). After the release of 'Oliver Twist', Dickens writes a couple of other stories that become critical flops, and turn him into his own worst enemy. He's pretty well convinced that if his next story doesn't shine, he may have to give up trying. But, of course, since we all know who Charles Dickens is, we know that sure as hell doesn't happen. In fact, his next story ends up being 'A Christmas Carol', which, upon its release, quite literally did change the world, and the holiday, for the better.
But what I really took away from this one was that as the story unfolds, we find out how he was inspired to write about almost every detail of the story. Some of this inspiration comes from his personal relationships with people, and we find that the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer - who does a fantastic job here) is a sort of ghost of a muse for him, seemingly based on his dark and doubtful side. Scrooge is that voice inside any aspiring writer who says "no, that's not good enough" or "wait, why would this happen?", but at the same time, Dickens find the strength within himself to oppose this figure, and eventually finish the book with a very tight deadline.
In many ways, this is sort of a retelling of the classic tale, putting Dickens in Scrooge's place. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future all come to him separately as he looks at his own life, and many of the similarities he, himself, has to both Scrooge and Bob Cratchet. So its not right on the money, where the spirits show him what he needs to see in a literal sense, but they end up presenting more of a metaphorical view, inspiring Dickens to write what he knows from his own past, present, and potential future.
The film is executed as a sort of dramedy, and we get to really check out the darker side of Dickens. It kind of paints him as a bit of an eccentric, crazy person with a short temper, and it's even mentioned how hard it is to be his friend. But at the same time, when we see him hard at work, we can't help but admire how he manages to come up with certain things, especially when things he puts to paper delve into his own life, getting inspiration from so many different angles.
I really have no idea how this goes as far as accuracy goes, because I have never really studied the history of Charles Dickens in any sense. I've listened to 'Christmas Carol' on audiobook once, and that's about as far as my knowledge goes. So to some purists, this may very well not hold up as well as it did for me. I liked the way Dickens was portrayed here, as it showed him as being very human and vulnerable as opposed to just a writing hero. It's also interesting to think that he may have single-handedly breathed new life into Christmas with his story. Let's face it, it probably is the single most popular Christmas story in existence, with about 30+ movie adaptations over the years, so it wouldn't really surprise me.
This one is a good length, doesn't go overboard on its storytelling, and all in all, it's actually pretty inspirational for anyone wanting to get into writing. It lets us know full well that even legendary authors get stuck, and it further tells us to listen to our friends and families criticisms on how we execute our stories. For example, Tiny Tim was originally supposed to die. Could you imagine?? Anwyay, if you can find it, it's well worth checking out as a sort of new adaptation of 'Christmas Carol', but at the same time, a neat glimpse into the life of the one and only Charles Dickens.