Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. United Kingdom/USA, 2002. United Artists Film Corporation, Hart-Sharp Entertainment, Potboiler Productions. Screenplay by Douglas McGrath, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Cinematography by Dick Pope. Produced by Simon Channing Williams, John Hart, Jeffrey Sharp. Music by Rachel Portman. Production Design by Eve Stewart. Costume Design by Ruth Myers. Film Editing by Lesley Walker. Golden Globe Awards 2002.
After the abysmal Company Man, writer-director Douglas McGrath returns to the formula that previously yielded him the delightful Emma. Charlie Hunnam is terrific as the titular hero in this winning adaptation of Dickens’s popular novel, a young Victorian-era nineteen year-old who is suddenly thrust to the head of the household when his father passes away and leaves him in charge of taking care of his mother and sister. Making their way from the country to the big city of London, the family takes refuge in the home of their heartless uncle (Christopher Plummer), from whom they beg some help in terms of finding employment; unfortunately, they have no idea what manner of evil he is capable of. Nicholas is sent to work at a horrific boarding school, while his sister is given employment as a dressmaker’s assistant but also ends up being part of Plummer’s apparent plan to break into the world of pimping. Billy Elliot‘s Jamie Bell further proves a natural gift in acting as the mistreated young boy that Nicholas discovers at the boarding school and eventually takes under his wing. The original story has been beautifully pared down to a two-hour running time, and though the narrative sometimes jerks here and there in ways that make it obvious that it comes from a much larger source, it is nevertheless incredibly enjoyable. All the performances are pristine, most especially Plummer and a fabulous Tom Courtenay as his good-hearted manservant. Also features roles performed by Jim Broadbent, a terrifying Juliet Stevenson, Edward Fox, Alan Cumming, Nathan Lane, Dame Edna Everidge (!) and Sophie Thompson (Emma‘s Miss Bates).