Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - What's On -

Al­though clearly billed as fes­tive fare, this Cana­dian-Ir­ish co­pro­duc­tion ac­tu­ally works best as a biopic of Bri­tish au­thor Charles Dick­ens.

When he first meets the lit­er­ary gi­ant (Dan Stevens), he’s bask­ing in the suc­cess of Oliver Twist.

Revered as ‘‘the peo­ple’s au­thor’’ and ‘‘the Shake­speare of the novel’’, he’s be­ing feted at balls and galas across Amer­ica. But while he de­clares his US hosts as ‘‘friendly, earnest, hos­pitable, warm-hearted, fer­vent and en­thu­si­as­tic’’, truth­fully he can’t wait to get back to Eng­land.

How­ever, just 16 months later and he’s wish­ing he was any­where but old Blighty.

The next three books have all flopped, with crit­ics de­scrib­ing Martin Chuz­zle­wit as ‘‘dull, va­pid and vul­gar’’.

Slow­ing sales means he’s got to start watch­ing his pen­nies, while even in­spi­ra­tion ap­pears to have de­serted him.

With an­other baby on the way and his feck­less fa­ther (Jonathan Pryce) caus­ing him no end of grief, oth­ers are even sug­gest­ing an al­ter­ative ca­reer may be ne­c­es­sary.

‘‘But I hate the press and the law is an ass,’’ he re­torts.

Just when things are look­ing bleak though, a com­bi­na­tion of his Ir­ish maid and some chance en­coun­ters spark an idea – a fes­tive fa­ble.

There’s just a few hur­dles to over­come first: there’s not much of a mar­ket for Christ­mas books and he’s only got six weeks to write the damn thing and get it into shops.

Based on his­to­rian Les Stan­di­ford’s book of the same name, The Man Who In­vented Christ­mas ben­e­fits mostly from some smart cast­ing and lively pac­ing from di­rec­tor Nalluri (Miss Pet­ti­grew Lives for a Day).

Stevens (Down­ton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) makes for a charm­ing if some­what gruff Charles, while Pryce (Game of Thrones) heads a deep bench of class sup­port­ing acts that also in­cludes Si­mon Cal­low (Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral), Miriam Mar­golyes (Miss Fisher’s Mur­der Mys­ter­ies), Christo­pher Plum­mer (Be­gin­ners) and Bill Pater­son (last year’s Dad’s Army re­make).

Screen­writer Su­san Coyne (2016’s non-Net­flix Anne of Green Gables tale) does a su­perb job of jux­ta­pos­ing Dick­ens’ flights of fancy with his in­creas­ing fraugh­t­ness as the dead­line ap­proaches.

Like­wise, the drama suc­cess­fully swerves any ac­cu­sa­tions of be­ing trite or twee (al­though there are oc­ca­sional mo­ments when it feels like Shake­speare in Love or a Stephen Mof­fatt Doc­tor Who episode) to land in gen­uinely heart­felt ter­ri­tory.

It might be a movie about Hard Times and one that ar­rives with­out Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, but it is def­i­nitely one that de­serves to be Hunted Down. – James Croot

Dan Stevens and Christo­pher Plum­mer star in The Man Who In­vented Christ­mas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.