Nicholas Nickleby

"Good"

Nicholas Nickleby Review


Poor Charles Dickens. He has the good fortune to be remembered by the entire world. What high school student hasn't been forced to suffer through Great Expectations? Nowadays, one of his books (and he didn't really write that many) is turned into a movie or a mini-series every year. (2001 saw four Dickens recreations on film or TV.)

2002 will earn but a single Dickens adaptation, a motion picture of Nicholas Nickleby, perhaps Dickens' least-read work and one of his most wandering (the novel being more than 800 pages long).

On a reported $10 million budget, Douglas McGrath (Company Man, Emma) hired a boatload of well-regarded actors and perfectly recreated early-1800s England, with special focus on the era's shoddy country boarding schools, which had conditions just above the level of prisons.

Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunnam) is the most handsome lad in all of Britain, a shocking-blond kid with a heart of gold. Too bad he's left penniless when his father dies, sending him and sister Kate (Ramola Garai) to London in search of financial aid from uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer). But Ralph will have none of it, shooing Nicholas off to become a teacher at one of the aforementioned boys' schools/slums and conspiring to marry Kate off to one of his grotesque, geriatric buddies.

For about 40 minutes we follow Nicholas as he learns firsthand of the appalling conditions at the school under the iron fist of Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent), eventually rescuing the crippled Smike (Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell) from a beating at Squeers' hands. This escape sets the latter two-thirds of the movie in motion, wherein Squeers tries to get vengeance by extorting Ralph for compensation and hunting down Nicholas and Smike.

While the first act is stellar and features exceptional performances from Hunnam and Broadbent, sparring all the while, the moment Nicholas leaves Squeers' school, the movie completely falls apart. Most heinous is a good half hour which is wholly wasted with an unlikely side story wherein Nicholas joins a traveling acting troupe (led by Nathan Lane and Alan Cumming in embarrassingly ham-fisted performances) and performs the lead in Romeo and Juliet in Liverpool. But soon enough he's off to London to reunite with his sister, and the whole affair is forgotten.

Once in London, the plot turns again on a series of wild improbabilities typical of Dickensian dramas, wherein secret family relationships are revealed, lifelong loves are found at first sight, the bad guys are vanquished, and everything ends happily ever after. The implausibility isn't so much surprising as it is merely disappointing.

McGrath has done a good job at adapting a difficult work and paring it down, but he definitely should have cut out the acting bit (despite it being good for a few chuckles) and focused on the machinations at work behind the scenes, all of which lead to the dramatic conclusion. These convolutions are given really short shrift, shown in speedy flashback to wrap up a movie that's about to hit 130 minutes in length. Sadly, it's the most interesting part of the film (the first act notwithstanding), but the quick attempt to tie up all the loose ends never really succeeds.

Nicholas Nickleby will be devoured by Dickens fans looking for holiday-time warm fuzzies, but next to vastly superior ancestors like Little Women and Sense And Sensibility, it's hard to really fall in love with the film.

"I'll burn yer hair off, pretty boy!"



Nicholas Nickleby

Facts and Figures

Run time: 132 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th June 2003

Box Office USA: $1.3M

Distributed by: United Artists

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 28

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , John N. Hart,

Starring: as Nicholas Nickleby, as Vincent Crummles, as Mr. Wackford Squeers, as Ralph Nickleby, as Smike, as Madeline Bray, as Mr. Folair, as Charles Cheeryble, as Kate Nickleby

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.