The transition from page to screen
is not always a simple task when the material handled is based on
a work by the great Charles Dickens. Ethan Hawke shamed the
famed author with his overly pretentious film "Great
Expectations" and cast a dark shadow over anyone who would
attempt to revise Dickens again? The solution: turn
Dickens' third novel, "Nicholas Nickleby", into a
pitch-perfect conception, and produce a thoroughly entertaining
journey of one young man's quest to find love and acceptance
whilst surrounded by numerous villains along the way.
Nicholas Nickleby is played with much zest and vigor by the little
known Charlie Hunnam (he was the male lead in the God-awful "Abandon"),
a handsome young actor with the perfect dialect and exaggerations
for a Dickens character. The film follows Nicholas from his
departure from the Squeers School, headed by the brutally wicked
Wackford Squeers (portrayed with playful ferocity by the great Jim
Broadbent). He is accompanied by his best friend Smike
(Jamie Bell, in his first role since "Billy Elliot"),
and the two seek out fame and fortune, which lands them on the
doorstep of The Crummels (Nathan Lane and Dame Edna), a touring
theatrical group who see quite a bit of potential.
Eventually, they are also thrown into the mix with two lawyers and
a plethora of other absorbing characters. Christopher
Plummer co-stars as Nicholas' brutal Uncle Ralph.
film reminded me of Kenneth Branagh's remake of
"Hamlet", in that it took small characters from the book
and made their roles much more impressive and much more important,
as in the case of Uncle Ralph and Wackford Squeers. The film
takes time to examine why Squeers treats his students in such a
way, and the character of Smike is pitied quite frequently in the
set design and costuming in this film are lush and unforgettable.
I don't see any scenario in which this film does not win Best
Costume Design at the Academy Awards. I thought Colleen
Atwood for a moment might have been behind the costume, but I was
would have to be one of the best, if not the best, Dickens
adaptation I have ever seen, thanks largely to the brilliant
performances from everyone involved, especially Charlie Hunnam,
Jamie Bell, Nathan Lane, and Christopher Plummer. They give
added depth and electricity to their characters and make this is a
beautiful movie-going experience. "Nicholas Nickleby"
is a great picture for just about anyone, and see if you can count
all the hidden statements and messages. I know I couldn't.