Ah, A Christmas Carol. The timeless story about a Christmas grump who learns the value and meaning of Christmas by confronting his mean-spirited choices of his past, present, and possible future with the help of a trio of ghosts. It’s a wonderful story with tons of movies that showcase something different. Some more timeless than others, but they’re here and they’re always a treat around the holidays.
Surprisingly though, there’s ironically no movie about the man who created the original novel in the first place, Charles Dickens. Weirdly enough, these past few months have strangely been about authors of beloved literary classics. A.A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ) and J.D. Salinger of Catcher in the Rye (REBEL IN THE RYE ). I guess it’s just been that kind of year. But who cares, so long as the story is good? Actually, this movie is something of a joke waiting to happen. It’s a movie adaptation… of a book… about the author… who writes a book. I may not be laughing out loud, but on the inside, I can’t help but bust a gut.
The story looks like it’s about Dickens not at his career best as an author. In hopes of creating a new story that will put him back in the spotlight. Creating an imaginary Ebenezer Scrooge to communicate with, he slowly, but surely, creates the novel, A Christmas Carol.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dan Stevens (MARSHALL , A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES , THE FIFTH ESTATE , and the upcoming APOSTLE ), living legend Christopher Plummer (THE STAR , THE LAKE HOUSE , TWELVE MONKEYS , DRAGNET , THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING , THE SOUND OF MUSIC , and upcoming films ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD  and THE LAST FULL MEASURE ), Jonathan Pryce (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END , TOMORROW NEVER DIES , BRAZIL , 12 episodes of TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE ), and Morfydd Clark (LOVE & FRIENDSHIP  and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Bharat Nalluri, known for MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008) and THE CROW: SALVATION (2000). Penning the screenplay is Susan Coyne, making her feature-film debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Mychael Danna, known for THE BREADWINNER (2017), BILLY LYNN (2016), and SURF’S UP (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Smithard, known for GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, BELLE (2013), and THE TRIP (2010).
Overall, I wasn’t expecting this to be a comedy, but I’m highly open to it. It looks enjoyable, beautiful sets and production value, and Stevens looks like he’s going to be incredibly fun to watch as this eccentric writer who gets all these ideas. I think I’m going to like this a lot.
This is my honest opinion of: THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS
Set in 1843. Famed and celebrated author, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens), has sadly hit a low point. After writing Oliver Twist, he wrote two more stories that were not as successful. Desperate to not let his career die, as well as being low on money and a fifth child on the way with his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark), so a successful book is a must and soon. Then an idea strikes: a short comedy that celebrates Christmas and what it means, even though Christmas isn’t a big holiday. The trouble is, he has to write it in less than a month and he has no idea what to write.
I liked it. It’s actually a really interesting story and for a movie based on true events, it’s a refreshing approach compared to most. For one thing, it’s primarily a comedy. Not that I’m saying true stories haven’t been comedies before, but usually they’re dramas or have a mix of drama and comedy. I feel like this movie had comedy in the forefront.
At the center of that comedy is a surprisingly charismatic performance by Stevens. While I can’t say what Charles Dickens’ personality really was, I can’t deny that I loved the interpretation here. Dickens is like this lovable mad genius if he was a writer of whimsical fantasies. He’s loaded with energy and wonderful comedic timing. I love how he is with his children, changing the way he interacts with them as individuals, the way he gets excited when he learns of the word “humbug,” his physicality as he tries to invent Scrooge the character, it’s all incredibly fun to watch. I also really enjoyed his interactions with his young Irish nanny, Tara (Anna Murphy), who seems incredibly into his work and how he runs his ideas past her. I enjoy watching her get excited and then he gets excited, constantly feeding into each other’s imaginations and passions. And thank God this didn’t become some kind of love affair. I could have easily seen this relationship go that route, but no, it was mercifully restrained. Then again, I’m pretty sure Tara, and by extension Murphy herself, are teenagers, so it’s probably silly to worry that the story would have allowed something that creepy. But more than just Charles being funny and enjoyably eccentric, his dramatic side shines as well. I guess at the time, poverty was considered closer to a disease than a societal worry (I said, as if anything’s really changed), but he has a burning passion to tell the stories of orphaned children or homeless people. Mostly because he was one as a boy thanks to a less than careful father who got in trouble with the law. He defends them, wishes to help them at every given turn despite the criticism he gets from his wealthy peers who think that it’s a wasted subject.
But I think on a more personal level, I love this interpretation of a writer. The talking to oneself, the talking to the characters that aren’t supposed to be there, but his imagination is so vivid and real to him that he has full-on conversations with them. He’s not crazy, as he does snap back to reality when someone talks to him. As an occasional writer myself, I can say that this is also my creative process. Though to be fair, his method is more productive. The more he interacts with his imagination, the more progress he makes in his writing. I just distract myself and get nothing done. In any case, there is that psychological element that I
Oh and seriously, Plummer is probably my favorite Scrooge I’ve ever seen. Probably not saying much, considering that I’ve not seen many. Yeah, quick side note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire movie of A Christmas Carol before. I know there’s a crap ton that exist. THE MUPPET’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992), the ImageMover’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009), and I think there’s a not-so-good one that was made for TV that starred Whoopi Goldberg as Scrooge. These are the ones I remember wanting to see the most as a kid. Again, there’s countless interpretations, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one all the way though. Either way, I know what Scrooge is supposed to be like and I think Plummer needs a proper shot in the role. But if this is all we’re going to get, which is likely, then you won’t hear me complaining much. In fact, some of my favorite scenes and moments are when Charles is talking to Scrooge. Watching Scrooge berate and belittle Charles as he attempts to write, being both an influence and an obstacle for the book.
But as with most movies, it isn’t perfect. In fact, there’s quite a few question marks that I had.
For one thing, if the Dickens household is low on income, why are they still going for the lavish extremities, like chandeliers and even more hired hands? One would think they’d have to get rid of a few things to make ends meet. It’s even more confusing when the prices for their stuff is told to them as it arrives and is being put up, and they’re taken by surprise. Did no one bother to ask how much something cost? You’d think if you were low on funds, that’d be the first thing you’d worry about.
As much as I enjoy the connection between Charles and Tara, their relationship does beg me to ask one simple question. Why her? Why does Charles share his passion with the nanny and not, say, his wife? As it stands, Kate has very little character to her as it stands, other than to be the wife who accepts her creatively tormented husband, but that’s been done to death. Already, the accuracy of this relationship can be put on trial, so why not nick the nanny character and replace her with the wife? One would think she’d have a more impactful role, but she really doesn’t.
And as much as I love Charles’ presented creative process here, there is one scene that sort of subverted reality. While I’m certainly no stranger to talking to myself in a public setting, I talk under my breath. If you stare at me long enough, it’s obvious I’m doing it, but I do make some attempt at keeping it inconspicuous. It’s only in the privacy of my home and bedroom where I engage in full-on writer mode. In the scene in question, Charles is walking along the streets, having a full on conversation, out-loud, with Scrooge as if that man really was walking beside him. To make matters even more confusing, no one walking by him looks at him like he’s crazy. It would have been warranted. This is the only time where I think reality was blurred and bothered me.
Overall, despite the few problems, I enjoyed this film. Perhaps I’m a little bias, considering it’s about a writer and I’m a sucker for movies about writers. I love Steven’s performance, I love Charles and his creative process as a writer, and I adored many of the character connections. It’s a very heartfelt and interesting story and I really think everyone should give it a shot. It’s probably not in theaters anymore, as of this review’s publishing, but when it comes out on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend a rental. It’s a good flick to enjoy around the holidays. I wouldn’t necessarily buy it or anything, but it’s worth watching. It may not be a modern classic, but I think it’s a modern hit.
My honest rating for THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: 4/5