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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Man Who Invented Christmas

How Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 1, 2017 – Based on a book of the same name by Les Standiford, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is a fanciful story about how Charles Dickens was inspired to write one of the most popular books ever written, “A Christmas Carol,” in 1843. The book continues to have a profound impact on Christmas, and on many who read it.

The film opens with Dickens (played by Dan Stevens of “A Walk Among the Tombstones”) in the United States on a speaking tour, wishing he was back home in London. After establishing the fact that Charles Dickens was one of the most celebrated authors in the world, he appears back in London, where he faces financial problems, due to poor sales of his serialized novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit.”

Dickens' estranged father, John (played by Jonathan Pryce of “Woman in Gold”) unexpectedly shows up in London, selling Dickens' signature for money. John and his wife (played by Ger Ryan) move in with Charles and his family, causing some commotion in the household. This makes it difficult for Charles to write.

After witnessing graveside services for a wealthy man, services which few attended, Dickens gets some ideas for his new book, “A Christmas Carol.” After meeting with his publishers, who are not convinced he can deliver this book in time for Christmas, Dickens decides to publish the book himself. He enlists the aid of his friend, John Forster (Justin Edwards of “Love & Friendship”) to arrange for an illustrator and printer. Virtually nobody believes that Dickens can write the book and get it published in time for Christmas, just six weeks away.

Dickens, who had extensive experience as a journalist, was used to deadline pressure, but he was also dealing with writer's block and constant disturbances to his writing routine at home. The movie visually recreates characters from the book, starting with Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Christopher Plummer of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”). Dickens and Scrooge carry on a dialog all through the writing process. This is complicated by the fact that Dickens has to confront some of those dark parts of Scrooge's personality that exist within himself.

Ultimately, in order to understand how Scrooge could suddenly change his ways and become a good person, Dickens must confront his own childhood, when he was forced into child labor in a dirty, rat infested shoe black factory because of his father's spendthrift ways. He carried a grudge against his parents for this dark period in his life when his father, born into a wealthy family, was put into debtor's prison for a time.

Among those who inspire Dickens are his good friend, John Forster, and a young Irish maid, Tara (Anna Murphy of “The Vampire Diaries” TV series). The volatile Dickens rages against both of these people while wrestling with writer's block. Dickens, in this movie, is a very mercurial character, subject to violent mood swings and erratic behavior.

Overall, this is an instructive look into the history of Charles Dickens and the creative process behind his famous, popular book. However, it seemed overly long and I found the resolution to the writer's block problem less than convincing or illuminating. It also avoids the confronting the all-important politics of the book. I understand the movie's thesis, and the acting is quite good, but I found the narrative wanting. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)