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