To open this review on a bit of a personal note half-way related to the movie at hand, I have been proud to be apart of a drama group centered in southern Indiana known as Smorgasbord Studios; a drama group centered on delivering high quality stage drama through young men and women, who this year, happen to be doing the stage adaptation of Nicolas Nickleby (the Tim Kelly version). Performance is only days away now, and to help get the jitters out of a fluttery belly, I decided to review the 2002 movie adaptation to set the heart at ease and to further study a good reference point as an actor. Here’s the link to Smorgasbord’s website, to those interested: http://www.smorgasbordstudios.org/index.html
Now, onto the movie…
Nicolas Nickleby is a 2002 drama film written for the screen and directed by Douglas McGrath (Bullets Over Broadway, Company Man, Emma, and Infamous), and distributed by United Artists. It stars the ensemble cast of: Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Alan Cumming, Edward Fox, Romola Garai, Anne Hathaway, Barry Humphries, Charlie Hunnam, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer, Timothy Spall, and Juliet Stevenson. Perhaps one of the largest a-list actor cast for any Dickens adaption! Based on the book The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. (Running Time: 132 minutes)(Rated PG for some thematic material involving some violent action and a childbirth scene)
There was a review on the film’s release which I think describes the film justly: “…two hours of swift, engaging entertainment” and added, “the book’s theme and spirit have been dutifully respected. No, what Mr. McGrath’s has done with admirably modesty is better than that! Rather than trying to update, transform or otherwise interpret Nickleby, he has decided to share his enthusiasm for it . . . [He] has adapted [Dickens’ dialogue] with a scholar’s ear and a showman’s flair . . . [and] produced a colorful, affecting collage of Dickensian moods and motifs, a movie that elicits an overwhelming desire to plunge into 900 pages of 19th-century prose.”
…What more needs to be said? I am in total agreement with the review. It is a light, yet touchingly sweet and modest film available to show all ages but holds fast to the themes of Dickens’s prose.
The cast is huge, as are all Dickens’s characters meant to be: larger than life, quirky, original, and unique. Every part is acted differently and delivered organically. So who can argue with such an agreeable cast? And Anne Hathaway!–well, don’t get me started! She has certainly caught my attention after The Dark Knight Rises and more importantly Les Miserables both in one year (2012)! To see her in her second (or third) film, I am still convinced of the moving performance that she is able to give. Shucks, I mean, I could still watch Ella Enchanted (2004) for Hathaway’s performance! Yet its not just her brief and captivating performance in this picture. It’s everyone. As said before, Charles Dickens always wrote stories with a huge alignment of characters, offering a challenge for actors in his 19th century period, but also today! Personally, I think Jamie Bell plays the perfect Smike.
Okay, and to those familiar with this film, everyone should agree that Rachel Portman’s music is stellar and deserves credit. The British composer was the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Original score, which she did for another McGrath film, Emma (1996). Nevertheless, I just wanted to mention her soft-spoken but touching score that coincides along the themes of this drama.
Regrettably, on the film’s release, although praised by critics, did not fair well at the box office. On a rather low budget of $10 million, it barely reached past $3 during its initial theater run. But with its positive reviews, it managed to receive a nomination for Best Picture for Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes.
Still, a high 4 out of 7 stars for this one! Memorable story, lots of unique characters, good adaption of a classic novel, and great acting. A movie I recommend for the next family-movie night!