ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  douglas mcgrath

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  27 december 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  mgm/ua

OFFICIAL SITE  -  nicholas nickleby

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $10,000,000
nicholas nickleby - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from nicholas nickleby at

buy the dvd from nicholas nickleby at

based on the charles dickens classic, this movie tells the story of nicholas nickleby, forced to provide for his mother and sister after the death of his father.

was the third novel written by charles dickens.


picture from nicholas nickleby

picture from nicholas nickleby

picture from nicholas nickleby


three out of four possible stars

With a plethora of adorable characters to contend with and enough sweet natured comedy to fill an entire sundae cone, it seems impossible that Nicholas Nickleby the movie began life as a Charles Dickens novel. Written over 150 years ago, the hero of Nicholas Nickleby is one of Dickens's most classic heroes and is a person that everyone would like to believe in as having really existed. And Charlie Hunnam's portrayal of the title character is as moving a performance as the young actor has ever given, complete with a good dose of light humor to keep the darker sides of Dickens at bay.

One would not think Dickens could ever be so easily accessible by audiences, but Nicholas Nickleby is presented in an easy to understand manner by director and screenwriter (adapted) Douglas McGrath who tells the story more in the tradition of Jane Austen than Charles Dickens. It is interesting to note that McGrath also helmed the terrific adaptation of Austen's Emma a few years back and actually used the same composer to create his musical score. As with Emma, Rachel Portman creates a memorable soundtrack worth a second listen to on CD. With sweeping violins and delicate oboe sequences, the music is as influential as a physical character.

In other related non-character elements, the cinematography and art direction (which can hardly be separated as they influence one another so heavily in this film), are accomplished in a unique manner with a focus on alternate camera work and vivid set decorations. For example, one of the first shots in the film begins at a height of around twenty feet, staring vertical down onto the heads of the characters. This shot has been used in films before, but in a period film that takes place in the middle of the nineteenth century, the shot is a unique addition to say the least. And the set decoration and locations can only be described as beautiful, as they too add as much to the film as human characters might.

Even in the darkest scenes of the film, which take place in a dilapidated shack that poses for a school, run by the evil "Wackford Squeers," played by the estimable Jim Broadbent, are beautiful. With a lot of care spent on the lighting and color of each scene, the clarity present in every shot is so beneficial to the look and feel of the film. The tone of each scene is set by the art direction before any actor has a chance to speak and reinforce that tone. But when those actors do have a chance to speak, it's evident how much thought was put into the casting of the large amount of characters.

However inconceivable their speech (which does border on the unbelievable in some scenes), every single actor makes an important contribution to the film. Though they are undoubtedly helped by the intricate and expertly woven threads designed by costumer, Ruth Myers. Indeed, when Nathan Lane, playing the hilarious and bubbly thespian "Vincent Crummles," dances on stage with his "wife," who looks a lot like Marie Antoinette with a five o'clock shadow, the film certainly livens up. Played Barry Humphries, "Mrs. Crummles" makes the most of every moment of her . . . his screen time.

But really, every single character in Nicholas Nickleby deserves infinitely more screen time. To label the cast of this film "enchanting" would not be far off the mark. The casting Jamie Bell as Nicholas's faithful friend, "Smike," seems to be nothing less than genius as he nearly steals the show in every scene he's in. Since his feature film debut in 1999's Billy Elliot, his growth as an actor has been stunning. And as Nicholas's infinitely evil "Uncle Ralph," Christopher Plummer becomes one of the most deliciously evil Dickens baddies ever to be brought to the screen.

His ability to be completely wicked and sympathetic at the same time is certainly a complicated feat and deserves some award recognition. The combination of such enjoyable performances and expert cinematography, art direction, and music is grounds for labeling this picture one of the best of the year. And the fact that it's actually entertaining as well is certainly a mark in its favor. It should be enjoyable by audiences of any age and is highly picturesque. A keen sense of detail for character, scenery, dialogue, and story has allowed director McGrath to create an exceptional film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs mgm/ua 2002
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact