The Christian Angle on The Man Who Invented Christmas
Bleecker Street Media’s latest film The Man Who Invented Christmas is a novel (heh) reflection on a classic story, although there really isn’t anything “novel” about it. The plot premise is tried and considered “antiquated” in some circles, and old hat tricks comprise the cinematography. What nullifies those two negatives, however, are the stellar performances across the board, and what ultimately redeems this film is its thematic focus and iteration of forgiveness, grace, and love.
Our play begins with Charles Dickens running out of money. Coat-tailing the success of Oliver Twist and the “flopping” of three other literary endeavors, Charles is at the end of his proverbial, financial, and creative ropes when he gets the idea to write what would become A Christmas Carol.
Complications arise, however, when Charles’ father John Dickens arrives. Like a ghost from Charles’ past coming to haunt his present, John encroaches on Charles’ personal life, living space, and even pocket change. Charles is constantly brought to the crisis of dealing with his lush father, and these decisions drive this story to its heartwarming conclusion.
Watching Charles’ creative process on screen is the primary source of this film’s magic, due in no small part to Dan Stevens and his amiable and winsome performance as the man himself. Charles is a man who relishes in his own world (much to the chagrin of those around him), and Stevens carries that wonder with him in his eyes (which are a lot easier to see when they aren’t hiding behind a load of fur). Stevens has fun with the role, and his energy is contagious.
The other dynamic of this creative process is the cast of characters that Charles conjures up in his imagination. “Get the name right,” Charles proffers, “and the character will appear.” Appear they do and out of thin air at that. The other spirits and novella characters have their time to shine. We see an infatuated couple dancing on the street, for example, and they reappear in Charles’ imagination as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig.
Others have bemoaned the similarity between this film’s execution and Shakespeare in Love, and while I still haven’t seen the latter (sorry Jessica), the observation is still no less true for the former. Think of it as simple and effective. It’s fun seeing how the people in Charles’ waking life embody the persons in his creative walk.
Be that as it may, the audience is blessed when Christopher Plummer emerges as the tight-fisted, nose-to-the-grindstone Ebenezer Scrooge. His portrayal of the miser is masterful and even chilling at times. I could enjoy just seeing Plummer play Scrooge in a production based on him, but I would be content if this film were his only performance as such.
Without giving too much away (as we’ll probably cover this film on the podcast next year), I can confidently say that this film affirms what Jesus teaches about grace, love, and forgiveness (and listeners of the podcast know that I don’t use those terms trivially). Just as Scrooge has to forgive his past and people from it, so does Charles, and so should we. Only then can our burdens be lighter.