Nicholas Nickleby

Bomb Rating: 

Here's director Douglas McGrath's problem: He's too big a wimp to realize that it's necessary to string the audience along for as long as possible in an emotional drama.

"Nicholas Nickleby" starts out quite depressingly, but McGrath essentially gives up half way through the film by telegraphing Nickleby's ascension toward happiness. In fact, for the movie to work in any reasonable way, it should not be clear to the audience that Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam) is going to survive all the horrible things heaped upon him by such people as his mean Uncle Ralph Nickleby (Christopher Plummer). Unfortunately, McGrath is so in love with the idea of filling the movie with as many fun, supporting characters as possible that Nicholas has nothing left to overcome by the end of the film. We're practically rooting for Uncle Ralph to wipe that smirk off Nicholas's face.

And that's another thing: Hunnam's performance is way too cheery. He plays Nicholas as an irrepressible spirit and we never doubt that even while he's watching Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) beat little children senseless with a stick, he's easily going to overcome it all and get some measure of revenge. McGrath's idea of a transition is to go from child abuse to Nicholas's sister Kate's (Romola Garai) big dilemma, which is that Uncle Ralph is trying to marry her off to some awful icky friend of his. Okay, so the guy is disgusting and making all sorts of unwanted advances, but the effect of going from the "school" where the kids are starving and getting beaten to Kate standing in her cute dress complaining about the nasty, old man (mind you, this is London circa 1880) led one woman in the front row to stand up and yell, "Bitch, get some perspective!"

When Nicholas leaves the "school," he takes his new, best friend and resident cripple, Smike (Jamie Bell), with him to London. Smike is the source of much sympathy. However, because Smike falls in love with Kate (a union about as likely as one between Laura Bush and Ozzy Osbourne), Smike the cripple gets killed off solely for narrative convenience. Bell apparently took his acting lessons from Gollum in "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." They move alike and look alike, leading one to think that perhaps the Dickens estate ought to think about suing the Tolkien estate. Either that or the makers of Nicholas Nickleby should have CGI-ed Jamie Bell and made him really freaky because there's no chance in hell that this sappy, predictable film will gross 1/1000th of what "LOTR: The Two Towers" will.

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Finally saw "Great Expectations" (1946)

Dan_in_Cincinnati's picture

David Lean received a best Director Oscar nomination for this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.  Personally I'm not that big on Dickens.  David Lean was one heck of a good director however, with such classics as "Doctor Zhivago",  "Laurence of Arabia", and "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

So I kind of liked it.  Have to admit however that things don't really blow up real good, like in the three other classic Lean films mentioned above.   Some movie critics have called this the best ever film adaptation of a Dickens novel.  So the bottom line would seem to be that if you like Dickens a lot:  see this flick.  Netflix has it.

I give it two bombs.

{;-) Dan in Miami

PS:  Some Dickens quotes:

Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he's well dressed. There ain't much credit in that.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which of all men have some.



To be honest, the newer version's ending was closer to the book

TMundo's picture

...although the entire new version (with ethan hawk) was pretty much modernized stuff, the ending was closer to the first ending Dickens had wrote.  After Dickens' friends begged him to write another ending he wrote a happier one and hollywood took it and 'ran' with it.

Lean's GE had some great shots

FearlessFreep's picture

Like when Jaggers entered the forge, his figure in the doorway between the two huge shadows of Pip and Joe.  Or the shot of a whole line of prisoners being condemned to death at once, the camera passing along them until it reached Magwich at the end.

Great scene where young Pip was boxing with young Pocket.


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