Movie Reviews
9:41 am
Thu January 9, 2003

Nicholas Nickleby

...how did the Golden Globes ever nominate this as a comedy?

If Dickens were with us today, he would delight in the stock shenanigans of Michael Milken and the outrageous dysfunction of the Osbourne family. Speculation and family chaos rule his "Nicholas Nickleby," directed on film by Douglas McGrath ("Emma") and starring Christopher Plummer as cold Uncle Ralph and Jim Broadbent as cruel Wackford Squeers.

The idyllic thatched cottage in Devonshire with its white smoke pluming to heaven contrasts sharply with the dark satanic mills of London spewing black smoke into every home and hovel. The eponymous hero, played by Brit TV star Charlie Hunnam, travels both worlds to defend the honor of his sister, overcome the tyranny of his uncle (Plummer), and find love. Along the way Broadbent's boarding-school proprietor, reflecting the workhouse slavery of 19th century England, helps his uncle sabotage Nickleby's spirit and endanger his best friend. But Nicholas also meets the delightful Cheeryble brothers, one of whom is Mike Leigh regular Timothy Spall in an uncharacteristically cheery role.

England is lovingly represented in this film by a cinematography wedded to landscape like a Constable painting, gentlemen appearing as stately as in a Reynolds, and women appearing to be sitting for Gainsborough. All seems well represented without being overdone or obvious.

Like a good Dickens novel, the filmed "Nicholas Nickleby" can't help but drive home lessons about honesty and family. Reliance on both will bring happiness. My only question is how did the Golden Globes ever nominate this as a comedy?