Projections - Movie Reviews

Nicholas Nickleby

Nicholas Nickleby

From one of Charles Dickens more memorable novels comes Douglas McGrath's very agreeable reworking of Nicholas Nickleby.

Nicholas, not one of Dickens' more nuance creations, is played pleasantly enough by Charlie Hunnam, who at the outset is saddened and meek when his father (Andrew Havill) passes away.

The attempts to get support from their London-based Uncle Ralph, a malevolently restrained Christopher Plumer, isn't met favorably as Nicholas is relocated as an instructor at a dreary learning facility, the Dotheboys ("do-the-boys") school.  Meanwhile, in tow, Nicholas' mom (Stella Gonet) struggles as a seamstress and his sister Kate (Romola Garai) is made to entertain his uncle's wanton chums, including one lecherous investor, Edward Fox's Mulberry Hawk.

Some intimations of the darker nature of the Hogwart's Wizard School are evoked from the squalid Dotheboys as wretched orphans and illegitimate youngsters are quite mistreated by a unsavory Wackford Squeers, acted with broad menace by Jim Broadbent.  His wife (Juliet Stevenson) isn't any nicer to the abused, starved occupants of their decrepit hovel.

This stylized, compressed tale enriched by Dickens' elaborate narrative gains emotional heft as Nicholas befriends, a crippled orphan, Smite, affectingly played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot).  They go off together, not just to find what rewards may be awaiting their energies, but to serve the darkly glowering Uncle Ralph his just desserts.  The two are aided by Tom Courtney's Newman Noggs, a disloyal clerk of Uncle Ralph who comes off as rumpled and more than a little peeved.

The picture is a generally sweet confection with some surprising turns that might not be for families tempted to bring along younger children.  And this swift, lighter variation on Dickens is lovingly mounted with distinctive period work by Ruth Myers on costuming, Dick Pope's lush cinematography, Eve Stewart's detailed designs, and Rachel Portman's serene music heard in the background.

 
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Nicholas Nickleby
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