The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (TV Movie 2001) Poster

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moonlady26 March 2005
I fell head over heels for this film! This movie made me laugh, cry, and had me glued to my seat for the entire 4-something hours it comprises. I love Dickens, but had not read NN prior to seeing this film. After watching it, however, it inspired me to read the book. I found it to be a very faithful adaptation of Dickens' huge novel. The acting is superb. Charles Dance is excellent in his subtly cold Ralph Nickelby. I love the way he lets just the slightest flicker of emotion register in his eyes or the set of his jaw, but no more, which is perfect for a character who detests any feeling but greed. Smike is also perfect in his emaciated, stuttering patheticness. And Nicholas! Well, he's not only beautiful, but is a wonderful actor as well. He has all the innocence and smoldering passion the character requires. This film clarifies some of the grim realities that the Victorian Dickens only hinted at, and while it has wonderful moments of humor and kindness, this is no glossy, fluffy caricature, like McGraw's Hollywood-pretty version, which I hated. The acting is infinitely superior too! A truly wonderful film.
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A triumph in bringing a classic to life!
philip-129 September 2002
This latest version of Dickens's wonderful Nicholas Nickleby is yet another in a line of excellent BBC produced dramatizations of classics; something Hollywood rarely if ever does these days because "art" doesn't sell! All I can say is "Thank God for television!"

Everything about this adaptation speaks of excellence. The casting in particular is a joy. James D'Arcy is the finest Nicholas on screen. He is a "Candide"-like figure; total believable and you want to root for him just as Dickens wanted his readers to sympathize with the protagonist. Charles Dance is equally effective as Nicholas's villainous uncle. But it doesn't end with the two leads. Every single character (and there are a lot of them) is cast perfectly and totally believable from a physical standpoint; from the lowest street people to the wealthy upper class. There's not a dud in the lot! The casting director should be knighted!

The direction is fluid and unflinching as it examines the seedier sides of the story. Pairing down the story to three hours is done with excellent comprehension. Those parts of the story missing are inevitably not missed for a dramatic presentation. The art direction is exquisite throughout. Costumes, sets and locations are brilliantly handled.

I'll also take exception to those who prefer the Royal Shakespeare version. That production was a noble effort to bring the story to the live theater and in many respects it was original and excellent. It suffers, however, from a forced stage theatricality inherent in such projects and simply gets bogged down with too much detail. The result is way too long. The new version sacrifices some length for clarity and precision story telling and has better casting in every role.

I have no hesitation in finding the entire production to be delightful; and by all means go out and buy it. Contrary to some other remarks, you will enjoy immensely.
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A profoundly engrossing and affecting movie of the novel.
wjwolfe-114 June 2004
The leading roles of Nicholas, Kate, and Smike are performed with great empathy, wonderful naturalness, admirable restraint, and endearing conviction by their respective actors James D'Arcy, Sophia Myles, and Lee Ingleby. Charles Dance as Ralph Nickleby portrays an icily Dickensian villain, and Gregor Fisher an indeed despicable head of a school. Superb photography conveys the changing moods and varied scenes excellently. The smooth connectedness of the film easily allows the viewer to enter into and remain as an observer of the action. Scenes of merriment, tender affection, and gripping terror add up to a truly powerful dramatization on film.
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obi-john3 February 2003
After suffering though the lackluster new theatrical film - poor Charlie Hunnam has to be the least talented young actor thrust into a lead role in a long, long time - I was more than grateful to catch the Company Television miniseries version on Bravo. Not only is this adaptation blessed with a Nicholas who really can act - James D'Arcy is particularly fine in the role - but director Stephen Whittaker and screenwriter Martyn Hesford have done a remarkable job of maintaining the sweep and period feel of Dickens' huge, slightly flabby novel. (Take that, Douglas McGrath!) Well cast over all - Charles Dance is wonderfully subtle as the greedy, coldhearted Ebeneezer Scrooge prototype, Uncle Ralph Nickleby - this made for television NICKLEBY stands high above McGrath's boneheaded, miscast (save for Jim Broadbent as a gleefully wicked Squeers) & period-challenged Cliff Notes-meets-Reader's Digest version. Skip that wee bit of Dickens Lite in favour of this robust, full strength version.
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This movie is imbued with the quality of authentic Dickens.
wjwolfe-120 March 2002
This movie version of the novel amply reflects the understanding compassion that Dickens is known for. Its background scenes of London's impoverished as well as affluent class are convincingly impressive.

The various caricatures seem remarkably Dickensian. Beyond that, in sharp contrast with exploitative callousness, the tenderest comfort and kindliest good cheer are effectively portrayed by a splendid cast.

James D'Arcy in the title role gives a sterling performance as the appealingly generous-hearted and thoughtful Nicholas. Lee Ingleby deserves equally high praise as the woefully mistreated Smike, whom Nicholas befriends.
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A great Dickens adaptation
estelle_b16 January 2004
I'm really really fussy about Dickens adaptations, Nicholas Nickleby has been a favourite book of mine for years and years. But this one was brilliant, James D'Arcy was the perfect Nicholas and Sophia Miles was a perfect Kate. James D'Arcy and Charles Dance really suit Period Dramas, they make them believable. The casting, the script and costumes = fabulous. It's turned into one of my favourite Period Dramas & frankly, compared to the newest Nicholas Nickleby (the film)'s just a masterpiece. Give me ITV English Dramas any day!
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Brilliant adaptation
brokenjukebox14 January 2007
I've not read the book in ages and I haven't seen much of the 2002 film version, but I love this wonderful adaptation of Charles Dickens' "The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby".

The acting is first rate for all involved. James D'Arcy as Nicholas Nickleby and Sophia Myles as Kate Nickleby both give a lot of strength and dignity to their roles. Although both characters are presented as quite pure and face a lot of adversity, they are played with such strength you know that they won't let anything destroy them. Charles Dance is compelling as the cold hearted Ralph Nickleby and the many comic grotesques are all very enjoyable and distinctly painted. The pig-like Squeers family in particular- Gregor Fisher, best known for playing Rab C. Nesbitt does fantastic as the monstrous one-eyed Wackford Squeers, Pam Ferris gives good value as drunken Mrs. Squeers, a pre-'Tittybangbang' Debbie Chazen is hilarious as Fanny Squeers- her argument after a game of cards to her much more attractive best friend Tilda is a highlight). The rather dopey Mrs. Nickleby, the air headed dressmakers, the fancy, flamboyant circus-like theatre troupe, the twin Cherrybles, the lecherous old man and the cackling old hag Peg Silderskew (played by the always brilliant Liz Smith) are all great.

This is the first thing I saw Lee Ingleby in. I was very impressed. He does a remarkable job as the tragic Smike. He gives a very moving performance here, conveying the suffering and the innocence of the character very well.

Everything works to set the scene. The scenery shows a lot of wild countryside, the costumes, which earned designer Barbara Kidd a BAFTA are particularly good- even the food used adds to the overall feel of the story. The biggest weakness is the bombastic incidental music. It often drowns the actors out and distracts from the events in the story. Background music should be just that- left in the background to enhance the feel of the scenes rather than dominate them.

A brilliant adaptation by the late Stephen Whittaker as director and Martyn Hesford who adapted it as a script. A credit to TV drama.
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Pure Joy
Xercks1 August 2001
Nicholas Nickleby is often put on the Dickens "B-list" because of the episodic nature of the story and its over-dependence on unrelated and eccentric characters. But if these are weaknesses in the book, the producers of this adaptation have embraced them with joy and turned them into striking assets. Victorian costume drama too often chooses between mannerly drawing room theater and sobering social realism, Dickens tending toward the latter. And while the social themes of Dickens' works are not to be taken lightly, the entertainment value of his stories and of his characters -- especially the baddies -- is often not fully realized on the screen. Thankfully, the producers of this miniseries have followed Dickens' purpose in creating bold and memorable entertainment, while not losing sight of the moral center in the lovely, understated performances of the protagonists. (Make no mistake, though: James D'Arcy in the title role leaves no heart unthrobbed.) Charles Dance is evil incarnate as Ralph Nickleby, and this makes his comeuppance all the more enjoyable.
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One of the best Made for TV movies ever, Lee Igleby's performance makes me want to weep very badly
fang123horn19 June 2004
Let mme just say that I didn't read this book. But when I watched this movie I didn't care if Ithey butchered the book I love almost every minute of it. The performances were outstanding, in my opinion two of the stars from MASTER AND COMMANDER, James D' Arcy and Lee Igleby steal the show. The cruelty of the boarding school is like looking at a Nazi concentration camp. George Fisher and Pam Ferris were completely horrid and nasty folk and I rooted for Nicholas for taking Fisher down a notch or two. (It is funny how Pam Ferris play these villainous characters where here she's a nasty and drunken lady and in MATILDA a lucifer type headmistress, and recent in HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, as harry's fat stupid insulting aunt marge.

Charles Dance could be seen as a scrooge and I thought he would change but he only gets worse. Some of the characters provide some comic relief like Mr. Mantalini who reminds me of Mr. McCawber in David COPPERFIELD and the Vincent Crummles. Sophia Myles who is not only beautiful but very talented in her role as the struggling but strong will Kate. My favorite character besides Nicholas would be none other than Smike, Lee captures the character so brilliantly and his performance makes me want to weeep. IN the beginning, he is subjected to cruelty by the Squeers but when he meets NIcholas he is treated as a person not a slave and has a little courage in him. I wish though he wasn't a tragic character, this part I scorn Charles Dicken for doing that. All in all, it is a great movie for anybody who loves Dickens or just like good drama.
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Story by Dickens is well done
George04118 December 2002
The cast was excellent. Every actor and actress performed in a very believable manner. James Darcy and Charles Dance were outstanding and convincing. Wackford's daughter was a pleasant surprise in the way she portrayed a young woman on the prowl for Nicholas Nickelby. The photography of the countryside and horses drawing a carriage was spectacular. All in all, the picture was worth watching.
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The best of the three adaptations seen of Dickens' novel
TheLittleSongbird19 September 2013
The other two were the 2002 film, which was not perfect and not the most ideal of adaptations but has many merits and is better than some say, and the very good and faithful 1977 series with Nigel Havers. This adaptation does condense the book, being only a little over three hours, but of the three adaptations seen it's the best one. Can't wait to see the 1982 version with Alun Armstrong as Squeers, which promises to be even better if going by what I've heard of it, and the 1947 film will be seen as well. The only let-downs with this 2001 adaptation is the overly-bombastic and overblown music score and Madeline Bray's overdone make-up, made up to look much richer than what her character actually is.

Adaptation-wise, it is more than respectable, doing a brave job squeezing a huge story with so many characters and a sprawling narrative within the running time. There are omissions of course with some things added in(like how Sir Mulberry Hawke acts towards Kate, which makes him an even more lecherous character), but things move swiftly and fluidly while having time to breathe and effort is made into richness of characterisation. The storytelling does make an effort to be true to Dickens and does so without being too cold(you feel for Nicholas and Smike and hate Sir Ralph and Squeers for instance), it's also cohesively told.

In regard to the dialogue, that is also easy to understand while not sounding too modernised. It's not as effectively Dickenesian as the 1977 series, but still has a natural flow to it, and captures the comic and tragic elements better than one would expect. The adaptation looks great, the photography is both beautiful and unflinching- remarkable for the many tonal shifts- and the costumes and sets are opulent yet evocative of the time too. The direction keeps making the drama believable, without making it come across as too over-acted or cold, each scene flows into one another in a non-choppy way and the shifts are handled well.

We have some really excellent performances as well. James D'Arcy plays Nicholas so charmingly and believably that you identify with him every step of the way. In other principal roles the standouts were Charles Dance, whose Sir Ralph is cold, icy and conflicted all done with superb conviction, and the Smike of Lee Ingelby, who has never been more moving. Though there's also Sophia Myles, who is enchanting and is by far and large the best of the three Kates, and Gregor Fisher's utterly despicable Mr Squeers. Pam Ferris is hilarious and nasty, and all the supporting and minor roles are well filled, some have to deal with caricature-like characters but still do fine with what they have. Mrs Nickelby often is treated either like a caricature or totally blah, while not quite as effective as Hilary Mason for the 1977 adaptation Diana Kent still does a good job.

Overall, remarkably well-done, while I haven't seen all the adaptations of Nicholas Nickleby this one is the one that comes off best of the adaptations of the book seen. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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A Platinum Rendition!
cywir-in-gwlad9 April 2010
Briefly - because it's much better if you simply WATCH IT(!), than read some random person's opinion about it - I can't really think of any way (without being ridiculous...) that this work of art could be better. Truly. It comes as close to perfection as a thing can come.

Particularly, the underscore, the direction, the casting, the performances, and the cinematography (!) are TOP-notch. I've seen a lot of BBC mini-series and films and this blew me away. As it was nominated (and won) for awards for wardrobe, make-up, and production design... you get the picture: TOP-DRAWER.

Somehow outrageous comedy and grim tragedy walk hand-in-hand, with a romantic backdrop of music and picture, and the result is remarkable and memorable cohesion.

If you fancied "Little Dorrit" (2008) or "Oliver Twist" (1999), this is definitely a MUST-watch. (Also if you're a Tom Hollander fan! He's outrageous in this.) Cheers!
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My feelings on Nicholas Nickelby
cameo1uk26 April 2001
I watched the film on TV, because I was, at the time reading the book. I wanted to see if they were the same. I recorded it on video, which I am pleased to say I did, for I have watched it many times again! I really loved the film, and I found James D'Arcy TOTALLY gorgeous! In the novel it says, Nicholas was a good looking gentleman with a slight though manly figure....straight legs the lot! James D'Arcy is PERFECT if you ask me! I'd love to meet him, because he really played a great part. The film itself, with the evil, sinister Ralph Nickelby and the fussing Mrs. Nickelby was great. Mr. Mantalini makes everyone laugh, the sardonic attitude he carries! I give this film a TEN out of TEN and recommend it to anyone who wants to watch a good drama!
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A Rich Panoply of Dickensian Characters As Nicolas Negotiates Life
museumofdave29 March 2013
Having just read the rich, lengthy novel, and then watched the more recent Charlie Hunnam version of Nicholas (which, for reasons of time cut many of the more curious characters), I thought this 200 minute version might be worth a look, and it certainly is, capturing the feel of a busy, dirty London contrasting with the purity and leisure of country living, a frequent Dickens theme.

The lead character, featured almost constantly, must be appealing, and James D'Arcy is certainly that, capturing the 19 year old inexperience of Nicholas as he challenges the cunning money-grubber that is his uncle, coldly played by the excellent English actor Charles Dance; this is a long film, but I enjoyed it all in a leisurely afternoon--even knowing the shocking outcome in advance, I was never bored, all the characters from poor, sad Smike to the sleazy schoolmaster Squeers played with convincing richness by a large cast--Pam Ferris is a particular joy as the childishly smitten Fanny Squeers. Not a great classic in the mold of the David Lean Great Expectations, but very much worthwhile.
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Acting Praise
DeanGirl8 January 2006
Nicholas Nickleby has been one of the best classics adaptations I have ever seen. The title role is filled perfectly by James D'Arcy who besides being the handsome hero was heartbreaking as the struggling young man. Another heart wrenching character, Smike, was portrayed beautifully by Lee Ingleby. Having not read the book before watching the film I cannot make any claims about its textual shortcomings but speaking from a purely artistic standpoint; from the accuracy of the costumes and sets, to all of the actors involved including Sophia Myles, and Charles Dance to name a few besides the aforementioned two, could have emerged straight from the time period for their believability. Not to sound trite but the film made me both laugh and cry. I was captivated and I willingly recommend it to anyone.
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Good on you BBC, another true dramatisation of a complex novel.
annapope25 October 2001
Despite the condensing of Dicken's long and complicated original book into only 3 hours, the 2000 TV version of Nicholas Nickleby is very good. It brings out the main characterisations and story-lines in fair detail, and is even a little slow at times. Yet it also allows us the opportunity to learn that the good are not perfect(in fact often rather wet), and the bad are not completely black (well, not all of them anyway). It must be marvelous to act in something where you can really get your teeth into the roles, and all the characterisations are superb! Dickens certainly lends himself to caricature. It was not as entertaining as the superb stage show version performed in Australia in the 1980s, but it is an excellent TV adaptation.
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Excellent adaptation of a novel by Charles Dickens
Red-12522 August 2017
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (2001) (TV) is a BBC TV miniseries directed by Stephen Whittaker. It's adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens. It stars James D'Arcy as Nicholas, Charles Dance as Ralph Nickleby, Sophia Myles as Kate Nickleby, and Lee Ingleby as Smike.

Nicholas Nickleby is not considered one of Dickens' greatest novels, but it's perfect for an adaptation for film. Beside the four Nickleby's, there are over a dozen great supporting roles. That's because almost no character in a novel by Dickens is truly a minor character. Everyone who appears in print—and on the screen—has a character of her or his own. Everyone has a story, and Dickens gives us that story. When someone adapts a Dickens novel, a skillful screenwriter, director, and cast can make each of those characters come alive.

The only lapse I found in this production was the way Fanny Squeers was presented. This is a fairly grim novel, and the scenes with the unattractive Miss Squeers presumably provide comic relief. However, the scenes are more cruel than comic. When Fanny Squeers is on the screen, the result is more painful than it is funny. Debbie Chazen--who portrays Fanny Squeers-- deserves better.

However, other than that, the movie is outstanding. All of the actors in leading and supporting roles do an impressive job. Charles Dance, as the uncle of Nicholas and Kate, plays the same type of role he played in Bleak House. He's wealthy, intelligent, and very, very cruel. Dance is made for that role.

Lee Ingleby's portrayal of the abused, forlorn young man called Smike is absolutely brilliant. His work stands out, even though the film has many fine performances.

This movie has an excellent IMDb rating of 7.7. It was made for BBC television, so it works well on the small screen. Find it and watch it!
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Wonderfully made, I couldn't resist!
livapr9923 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
After viewing the 1999 version of that classic 'A Christmas Carol' featuring Patrick Stewart, I was intrigued by 'Nicholas Nickleby.' After struggling to acquire the drama, I simply watched it online, and my goodness, the price of the broadband bill was worth it! The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a slow and methodical journey, filled with wonderful characters and compelling drama at every turn. The tale is that of the Nicklebys, a family plunged into poverty after the death of their patriarch and forced to live with his cruel brother Ralph, a scheming businessman intent on destroying the lives of his new charges. Sending his nephew to Dotheboys Hall, a foul boarding 'school' for young boys abandoned by their families, he encounters the vulgar Squeers family and the timid, pitiful 18 year-old Smike, a drudge often mistreated by his abusive 'carers'. Leaving the horrid place after saving his new companion, the drama follows the misadventures and trials of the pair, including love, loss, grief and sorrow, all bound together by a strong narrative and an excellent cast.

James D'Arcy stands out as the emotive and kind Nicholas, as does Charles Dance as his wicked and corrupt uncle. However, most impressive is Lee Ingleby as Smike, a "wretched creature" as Dickens so aptly described him, who is quiet and skittish due to his lifetime of hardship.

All in all, I truly enjoyed this adaptation- intelligent, dramatic and excellently made. I do have one complaint though- the music. As others have mentioned, it has a tendency to drown out the dialogue, so much so that I found myself laughing during one of the most serious sequences in the drama.

That aside, this is an excellent, albeit short, rendition of the Dickens classic. Wonderful!
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damson26 April 2001
James D'arcy, the handsome, yet excellent actor who the whole play is about, really does himself good in this Dickens play. He is an excellent actor and the whole play is made even better by him, and the other great actors. Charles Dance, playing Ralph Nickelby, the uncle of Nicholas, plays a great part, I didn't think he would be all that good, but really has outdone himself yet again. I was surprised to see that Madeline Bray was not in the list of cast members I looked at earlier. Did anyone else notice that?!!! Even though I am only 14 years old, this play inspired me to watch other Dickens films, and read other books by the man. I thought this film was great, and highly enjoyed watching it.
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major disappointment
jaybob6 February 2002
I purchased this 2 part TV film & no am sorry I spent the money on it,

Nicholas Nickleby has been made a few times before, This version is so overwrought,and over acted, it plays more like a comedy farce than the Victorian drama the Charles Dickens wrote. The acting by many veteran performers is in the style of the mellerdramas that were popular in the late 1890`s & the early part of the 20th century. Every scene is meticulously done to the height of gross indecency. I was laughing in disgust at some of the goings on. Worst of all was the overblown music score. Film music should aid & abet the viewers enjoyment, and not make him cringe.

If this appears on TV, or cable, you are warned, BUT DO NOT BUY OR RENT THIS, You will be wasting your money.

My rating is mainly for the sets & costumes which does convey the period. ** 62/100 IMDb scale 5
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ihg-16 November 2010
Sorry, but this one is plain trash. Full of just very disturbing over acting. Make you think it is some kind of Monty Python farce. But, as a bizarre comedy it is quite good. But what a waste of good actors like Charles Dance, D'Arcy and so on. Well, we all know that Dickens used very black and very white colors quite often - but this is just too much. The 2002 version with Christopher Plummer as Ralph Nickleby is light years ahead this simple joke. As in the Oliver Twist version with the actress Duncan - so incredibly over acting and so incredibly evil it seems as though the script writers think they are far better than Dickens himself.
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A Degradation to Dickens
KatharineFanatic23 June 2003
By in large, most of Charles Dickens' novels are dark, melancholy, and morbid. But the majority of them have an uplifting ending, and main characters above reproach. "Nicholas Nickleby" is one of his lesser-known volumes, falling to the back of the line in favor of "A Tale of Two Cities" and "David Copperfield." But it's also one of my personal favorites. Thus said, this Bravo adaptation follows it very closely... but I disliked intensely many of the scriptwriter's own "inventions" in dealing with the text. What bleeds through is a strong sexual undercurrent not present in the novel, as well as the defacing of several minor characters who made complete turnarounds in the novel by means of redeeming themselves.

The plot in novel form never comes across as being lecherous, even when dealing with Madeline Bray and the seventy-year-old swindler who wants to marry her for her money. Seeing him ogle her on the screen is much more disconcerting, as are the obvious sexual illusions, innuendo, and activity portrayed. Mr. and Mrs. Mantalini are all over each other, Mr. and Mrs. Squeers are constantly trading innuendo on jumping into bed at the earliest opportunity, and Sir Mulberry Hawke's advances toward Nicholas' sister Kate are much more lurid and offensive than in the book... like when he corners her against the pool table, puts his hand down her blouse, and then tries to force himself on her.

The acting is quite good, but the offensive elements for me weighed out the fact that this adaptation tries to be faithful to the text. It seems very cold and shallow without any great character development and the climax turns out slightly flat. I would encourage viewers to see the excellent 2002 adaptation by Douglas McGrath, which is all around more faithful to the spirit of Dickens, much less visually offensive, and far better produced.
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Strictly for Charles Dance fans
jaybelmont15 April 2001
Charles dance as dastardly villain, Ralph Nickelby, dominates yet another adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous novel. The rest of the cast are certainly adequate, but this adaptation is a dull affair, lacking the furious energy of Dickens' original, and comparing badly with the refulgent RSC version, which also exists on video.. The novel is awash with colourful characters, outrageously vigorous and over-drawn, but Dickens marvellous creations (Crummles, Squeers,the Mantolinis, Verisopht and sir Mulberry Hawke) are treated peremptorily and reduced to mere eccentrics. Only Charles Dance transcends the weakness of the adaptation and contributes a portrait of real stature, which has the unfortunate effect of turning him into the main character of the story.
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