One month before Christmas, it’s The Man Who Invented Christmas.
With three flops in a row and a string of creditors stretching around the block, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) floats the idea of a Christmas story past his publishers. “Does anyone still celebrate the holiday?” one of them wryly bristles before concluding that there’s not much of a market for Christmas books.
According to screenwriter Susan Coyne’s adaptation of Les Standiford’s book, Dickens’s sweat-free creative process consisted of listening to the harmonies of everyday life that surrounded him and plucking the strains that best suited his literary aspirations. The name Marley? The name of a rickety waiter at the club. The setting? Decided upon after a new nanny was overheard telling the children a spooky story that repositioned Christmas Eve as a night where spirits from another world crossed over and walked among us. And chasing a beggar leads to a cemetery where the “meanest cur on two legs” (Christopher Plummer, taking his turn as Ebenezer) has just finished burying his business partner. This character, of course, provides the author with the crucial catchphrase of “Humbug!” (To his credit, Dickens ad-libbed both the “Bah!” and the name Scrooge.)
If writing a novel were as uncomplicated a process as the one depicted in director Bharat Nalluri’s (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) umpteenth playback of Dickens’s yuletide chestnut, we’d all be self-published millionaire authors.
Dazzling to the eye — the velveteen costumes and production design are as sumptuous as they are lushly lit — the parallel stories are told in a manner that is both reductive and flossy enough to appeal to those longing for a more old-fashioned Christmas picture, one free of bad moms and dirty dads.