I've been in a Dickens mood lately, first with Great Expectations, then two different versions of Nicholas Nickleby and also I've been re-watching a David Copperfield which I hope to review soon.
I had only seen Nicholas Nickleby (2002) once when it first came out on VHS back in 2003 or 2004 so I was excited to watch it again. The only things I remembered about it was that it was rather short, the school Nicholas went to was horrible, and that Anne Hathaway is at the end of this film using a less than convincing British accent.
Plot: When Mr. Nickleby dies penniless his widow and two teenage children are left at the mercy of his rich but stingy brother Ralph Nickleby. Young Nicholas Nickleby is sent as a teacher to a boys school in Yorkshire where conditions are less than pleasant, and he endeavorers to make life tolerable for his students. When he quarrels with the schoolmaster he travels across the country in search of work with his crippled friend Smike in tow. Meanwhile his sweet sister Kate is set up in as a dressmaker's shop assistant and her uncle introduces her to rich young men in the hopes she'll make a good match. Nicholas meets a wide variety of characters as his story progresses and discovers the mystery behind Smike's parentage.
Settings, Costumes & Soundtrack: Settings were dark and bleak but not as dirty and grungy as in the 2001 BBC adaptation. Almost everything was true to the Victorian era time period. Some outdoor scenes are stunning. With costumes the overall color scheme is black because many of the characters are in mourning throughout the film. There are some lovely bonnets and hairstyles, top hats and vests. The soundtrack is simply lovely! The music style may be familiar because it was composed by the delightful Rachel Portman who also composed the soundtrack for films like Emma (1996).
Actors You Might Recognize: Many, it was lovely to see so many familiar faces popping up at every turn! Here are just a few:
- Ramola Garai as Kate Nickleby - Emma 2009, Daniel Deronda, Amazing Grace, As You Like It
- Christopher Plummer as Ralph Nickleby - seasoned actor, my readers might remember him from Sound of Music among other things
- Anne Hathaway as Madeline Bray - American actress also stars in Becoming Jane, The Princess Diaries, Ella Enchanted
- Jim Broadbent as Mr. Squeers - The Young Victoria, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Young Visiters, Silas Marner
- Juliet Stevenson as Mrs. Squeers - Emma 1996 as Mrs. Elton, Marple: Ordeal By Innocence
- Sophie Thompson as Miss Lacreevy - Persuasion 1995, Emma 1996, The Young Visiters, many others
- Edward Fox as Sir Mulberry Hawk - Daniel Deronda, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oliver Twist 2007, and many others
- Timothy Spall as Charles Cheeryble - The King's Speech, From Time to Time, Oliver Twist 2007, Our Mutual Friend, and a ton of other period films
- Alan Cumming as Mr. Folair - most notably as Mr. Elton in Emma 1996, also host of Masterpiece Mystery on PBS
My Thoughts: This isn't my favorite Charles Dickens' adaptation because it is shorter and moves very quickly. I don't hate it either. I really enjoy the character of Nicholas Nickleby, he's so human and yet of a great noble character that hates injustice and always does what is honorable despite his youth and inexperience. I'm not a huge fan of actor Charlie Hunnman's portrayal of him in this film, his mannerisms are quite true to the period and his acting style is a bit too modern and affected. Others characters and settings are fine. The story holds the viewer's interest, we want to know what is going to happen to Nicholas and his family. It ends happily, even though sadness must come first.
My Recommendations: There is some innuendo and a few scary scenes so this film isn't for young children. If you've read and love the book this probably isn't the adaptation for you. But if you are interested in the story and don't want to sit through the longer adaptation or just want a quick fix of Dickens this film is for you.
Have you ever seen this adaptation? Did you enjoy it?
If you've read the book how does this adaptation compare?
Do you have a favorite character from Nicholas Nickleby?
Film Clip: Mr. & Mrs. Squeers