Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Christmas Carol

This is probably the most famous version of Dickens’ classic story, due mainly (and justifiably) to the performance of its lead Alistair Sim. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Sim at work, and I am eager to see him again. He is the lynchpin that holds an otherwise somewhat shaky film together.

Part of the appeal is certainly that, being both the title character (the film was originally titled “Scrooge”) and being a generally miserable, crotchety old man, he gets all the really good lines. A large part of it, though, is certainly his face. To say he has an unconventional look to him would be most charitable. To say that he looks as though he had been shot in the face at some point in his youth would be a bit closer to the truth. It’s one of the most distinctive faces I’ve seen in the cinema, and it suits his character perfectly.

I like to imagine that most people would already be familiar with the story, but in case there are any holdouts among my readers that are willing to read inane movie reviews but not classic literature, the story is that of a miserly old banker who has no friends and no love in his life other than money, who is visited on Christmas Eve by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, showing him how he needs to change his life to avoid being damned. He awakens Christmas morning a new, and somewhat mad-looking, man, and rushes out to embrace everyone he had previously kept at arm’s length, and uses his long-accumulated wealth to become one of the city’s great philanthropists, God bless us everyone.

Okay, the ending is incredibly schmaltzy, as old Christmas films tend to be (this is as opposed to present day Christmas movies, where the heavy hand of irony forces us to avoid any schmaltz in favor of lots of bad slapstick humor), and there’s my Precocious Child alarm was tripped when Tiny Tim first showed up, but in general the good of this film does outweigh the bad. Sim alone is probably worth seeing the movie for, and let’s face it, even if this isn’t one of Dickens’ best works, it is still Dickens, and that carries a good deal of weight.

Rating: ***

No comments: