Friday, November 24, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas

As soon as I saw the trailer for The Man Who Invented Christmas, I put the movie on my must-watch list. Just see for yourself:

Charles Dickens (played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) was the most famous author of his day. By 1842, he was 19th century rock star. And then, bad reviews and poor sales left him floundering. By October of 1843, he feared his career was over. And that was when he got the idea for a short Christmas book.

When his publisher balked at the prospect of getting a yet-unwritten book published and distributed in six weeks, Dickens borrowed enough money to self-publish the story. But could he get A Christmas Carol written, illustrated, printed, and in stores by Christmas?

Just how big a gamble Dickens took becomes more obvious when his friends and associates pointed out that Christmas wasn’t a major holiday at the time. Much of what we consider a “traditional” Christmas—decorated trees, cards, even many familiar carols—only came into vogue in the Victorian era. Dickens book (spoiler alert, he did get it done in time—but you knew that already) was one of the foremost contributors to the development of our modern notions of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is an annual favorite at our house. We have several print copies (abridged and unabridged), the Patrick Stewart audio version, the musical Scrooge on video, and I think even the Muppets version on video. My husband and eldest son were in a community production of Scrooge some years back, as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. The more familiar you are with that story, the more you will enjoy this movie since it is loaded with lines from the book.

A lot of the movie deals with Dickens’ creative process as a writer, particularly where he got his inspiration and how he developed his characters. He has entire conversations with his characters, and Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) practically steals the show.

Don’t be misled by the trailer for TMWIC. The movie itself has numerous darker moments and contains more depth that one would guess. Unlike other authors of the time, Dickens used his writing to bring attention to the problem of poverty in industrialized London. In addition to the 1843 setting, it includes several flashbacks to a pivotal event in Dickens’ own unhappy childhood. The two timelines converge at the end in a surprising way.

TMWIC is in a limited number of theaters. We had to drive about 40 minutes to see it. It was worth it thoughmy husband loved it so much, he analyzed it the entire way home. I give it 5 "God bless us, everyones" and 0 humbugs.


  1. I SO want to see this movie! I may even sneak away and do it today. :D

    I loved the part in the trailer where Dickens FINALLY gets Scrooge's name right and he appears. Dickens is so delighted to be able to talk to him, to get his story, to make him live . . . and then someone knocks at the door, and Scrooge vanishes. This is exactly the writer's life.

    I want to see!

    1. Go do it. The theater we went to had reserved seating even, so we could buy the tickets online and pick out the seats we wanted before we ever got there.

      The part with Scrooge is even better in the movie. Dickens is playing a word association game to learn about Scrooge (What do you think of when I say...) when the knock on the door comes and Scrooge vanishes.

    2. I saw this today. Loved it! Plummer needs to play Scrooge in a real version of A Christmas Carol. He was wonderful.

  2. I need to get out and see this. I have a movie date for Poirot and this will be next. I'm excited to have two movies I actually want to see! What age level is appropriate, C.J.? Thanks for the review! Yes, Dickens Christmas is the driver of all our white Christmas dreams....

    1. I didn't see anything objectionable in it. I wasn't watching with them in mind, so I may have missed something, but I don't think so. It's PG, not PG-13 (I believe).

    2. Yes, there's really nothing objectionable. There are some child labor scenes that could be disturbing to young children, but that's the only thing I can think of. And kids who aren't familiar with A Christmas Carol could find it boring because you really need to know the story to get the jokes.

      I'd say elementary school and up should be fine. You could always watch a version of ACC before you go, just to familiarize them with the story.


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