The Man Who Invented Christmas

My bosom is glowing. That’s what we used to call boobies when I was little: bosoms. Pronounced bazooms, of course. My grandmother told us that eating our sandwich crusts would result in big bazooms and I gobbled mine up greedily, and those of my sisters, if they left them.

Is it a digression if I lead with it? Back to my glowing bosom, which is a line I lifted from the movie itself. It’s the story of how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol. He’d gotten a taste of success with Oliver Twist and was determined to live 58dd47c10c48e-e2i2h1u1qk5henceforth like a gentleman, but his next three attempts were flops – poorly reviewed, scarcely read. He was really under the gun to write his next best-seller and you know what pressure does to a writer: it blocks him. He pitched a vague idea for a Christmas ghost story to publisher and was laughed right out of the office, Christmas being a “minor” holiday and all. He determined to self-publish and gave himself the daunting deadline of just 6 weeks hence – a release just barely in time for Christmas. The only problem aside from funding was that not a word had been written.

The film follows Dickens (Dan Stevens) on his frantic quest to write a wildly popular novel without the merest hint of a concrete idea. He agonizes over the creation of characters and then is haunted by them, literally. Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) mocks his attempts and grumbles when he isn’t given enough lines, or enough good lines. Dicken’s father (Jonathan Pryce) is visiting and provides constant distraction. If you have even a passing knowledge of A Christmas Carol, it’s kind of fascinating to watch its author draw inspiration from his own life and everything around him, turning ordinary things into ideas that have permeated our culture and helped to define how we celebrate our holidays. While director Bharat Nalluri of course takes some dramatic license, the spirit of the thing is largely accurate. 

Dan Stevens is well-cast as Dickens, and it gives me great pains to send any praise his way because I’ve always held a grudge for how he treated Lady Mary when he left Downton Abbey the way he did. But in The Man Who Invented Christmas, he brings Dickens alive, a man for whom his characters were more alive to him than his own loved ones, and though Scrooge et al literally do speak to him (and offer criticism), his genius and vivid imagination are not to be discounted. But if the film merely existed to give us Christopher Plummer as Scrooge, that alone would be enough. About to celebrate his 88th birthday, the man still has performance in his bones. He won his first Oscar at the age of 82 for Beginners, and it is possibly not his last – he’s got 4 movies in various phases of production, including his hasty replacement of Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott’s All The Money in the World. This movie is a perfect example of why Plummer is still in demand. He turns an invented character into a real, flesh and blood man.

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21 thoughts on “The Man Who Invented Christmas

  1. Jay Post author

    In honour of the theatrical release of The Man Who Invented Christmas on Friday November 24th, Elevation Pictures is excited to partner with the Toronto Reference Library to bring a new Charles Dickens exhibit to Toronto. Charles Dickens: The Man Who Invented Christmas is an exhibition, inspired by the film, of original artifacts from a private Toronto collector. The exhibit includes a fragment of an original Dickens manuscript, personal letters and a facsimile of the only known calling card to exist.

    Date:
    Saturday, Nov. 18th – Sunday, Dec. 3rd

    Location:
    Toronto Reference Library
    789 Yonge St., Toronto (5th floor)
    The collection is accessed through the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of the Library.

    Cost:
    Free to the public

    Description:
    In celebration of the new film The Man who Invented Christmas inspired by the journey of Charles Dickens writing his classic tale ‘A Christmas Carol’, Elevation Pictures and the Toronto Reference Library have teamed up to bring original Charles Dickens artifacts to Toronto. The exhibit, which is free to the public, features first edition copies of Dickens’ novels as well as personal letters and original paintings. The exhibit runs from Nov. 18th – Dec. 3rd on the 5th floor of the library. The film it is inspired by stars Christopher Plummer and Dan Stevens and opens in theatres across Canada on Friday, Nov. 24th.

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  2. karengadient

    We’re going to see this one BEFORE we attend our annual theatre version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Perhaps it will freshen up a play we have nearly memorized after many years of attending (and even working as a stage hand in my case, a few times).

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      1. karengadient

        We enjoyed it. We knew a few of the lines in this one too. 😉 I think we’ll have some extra chuckles at the play now. Thanks for the all of the great reviews this year, by the way–you’ve led us to so many movies we wouldn’t have known about otherwise!

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  3. J.

    Reckon I’ll look up the trailer, Jay… this has got me intrigued (also, I wasn’t aware of the connection between bread crusts and bosoms… I’m hoping that crops up in a pub quiz).

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