Director: David Jones
Writer: Peter Barnes; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Cinematographer: Ian Wilson
Producer: Dyson Lovell
by Jon Cvack
In 2019, Christmas FX released the latest version of A Christmas Carol with Guy Pierce. I haven’t yet seen it, but heard it was amazing, and so the contest for top honors continues. Patrick Stewart takes up Ebeneezer Scrooge this round, further supporting my hypothesis that one of the most important character traits is a subtle and intrinsic gentleness. Something George C. Scott and Jim Carrey’s animation character couldn’t provide (though again, if Zemeckis’ film wasn’t animated it might have worked).
Each film often contains a fresh scene (or style) and in this it’s the idea to show Scrooge at Jacob Marley’s cremation; joined by only a few others who crack jokes about the man. We then follow Scrooge out into the cold and to his office where the camera lands on the “Marley and Scrooge” sign. It holds and the sign rusts and we move to next Christmas. I’m unsure if Scrooge attending the funeral is in the book, but it’s such a simple and effective way to set up Marley.
Richard E. Grant plays Bob Cratchit in an equally engaging role, in which the filmmakers dive deep into his home life where we get to meet his wife (Saskia Reeves) and the crippled Tiny Tim. What was missing from the Zemeckis version was spending so little time on this scene which is the most urgent and pressing matter that could flip Scrooge. It instead focuses on his long lost love and doesn’t even include a scene of Scrooge visiting the Cratchit’s on Christmas Day. In fairness, this version doesn’t either, but it again comes up with a clever conclusion (though maybe from the book) in having Bob and Scrooge not meet until December 26 where Bob comes in nearly fifteen minutes late and Scrooge pretends he’s about to fire him; instead offering a raise.
This version spends the least amount of time on his old love, opting to put Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Dominic West) in the second tier; following his slow fade from the family and Fred’s wife and their friends’ disdain for Ebeneezer. Aside from a weird dynamic between a man who’s creepily pursuing one of their friends, it works fairly well, if not feeling a bit dry, at times. I was wondering why such wealthy people would have such a cold home, figuring such a thing would better foil the Cratchits.
From there it provides everything you want from the story with the added bonus of endearing 90s television movie visual effects; aided by its 4:3 format.
I’m left thinking of all that’s preserved in the film. The tiny moments of Bob’s daughter hiding and pretending she can’t make it for Christmas; the door knocker turning into Marley; the dance at Ebeneezer’s old company; throwing the coin to the boy for him to buy the turkey; the kids sliding through the ice or throwing snowballs. So many pieces are replicated. Scrooged (1988) aside, I suppose no one wants to risk straying too far from the formula. Whether film noir, gothic, thriller, or horror story, it seems ripe for the picking.
BELOW: Great Marley's ghost scene
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