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Young Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam) and his family enjoy a comfortable life, until Nicholas' father (Andrew Havill) dies and the family is left penniless. Nicholas, his sister Kate (Romola Garai) and mother (Stella Gonet) venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), but Ralph's only intentions are to separate the family and exploit them. Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive and horridly entertaining Mr. Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent). Eventually, Nicholas runs away with schoolmate Smike (Jamie Bell), and the two set off to reunite the Nickleby family.
The movie is set in the early-to-mid-1800s, but characters sing the hymn "God is working His purpose out" which was written in 1894, 24 years after the death of Charles Dickens. See more »
What happens when the light first pierces the dark dampness in which we have waited? We are slapped and cut loose. If we are lucky, someone is there to catch us and persuade us that we are safe. But are we safe? What happens if, too early, we lose a parent? That party on whom we rely for only everything? Why, we are cut loose again and we wonder, even dread whose hands will catch us now? There once lived a man named Nicholas Nickleby...
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On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at
Traditional Yorkshire folk song; sung to the Methodist hymnal tune "Cranbrook" (1805) (uncredited), written by 'Thomas Clark'
Performed by Kevin McKidd (uncredited), Helen Coker (uncredited), and Jim Broadbent (uncredited)
Sung by John Browdie and Tilda while on their honeymoon in a London public house, accompanied by Mr. Wackford Squeers See more »
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens is a rather complicated novel. To even try to put a dent on the narrative is a task for someone very ambitious indeed. The film treatment directed and written by Douglas McGrath tries to condense it. In many ways he has succeded.
The story of how Nicholas avenge his dead father and in the process finds love and happiness is told with great assurance from the director and his notable players, some of the most brilliant figures in the English stage and films.
Christopher Plummer as the evil uncle, Ralph Nickleby, is excellent. This is an actor's actor. He plays this villain with relish and a panache not easily found in many other actors. Jim Broadbent appears as the lunatic Wackford Squeers in another star turn. Another performance that is subtle, yet very effective is by Tom Courtenay, as Newman Noggs, who at the end helps Nicholas get to the truth. Juliet Stevenson plays Mrs. Squeers with the right amount of bitchiness and evil. How about Nathan Lane?. He is outstanding again, as is Barry Humphreys, playing his wife.
The only problem are the younger roles. Charlie Hunnan is a likeable performer, but out of his league in this company. The role of Smike, a key figure in the novel, is handled with the clumsiness the role requires by Jamie Bell. Anne Hathaway as Madeline Bray, and Ramola Garai as Kate, are adequate.
All in all this makes a pleasant occasion, if somehow tamed, at the movies.
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