‘Tis The Season Cinema: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I are starting a feature today where we will share our impressions of Christmas movies, in the same way we did for Halloween movies and the summer classic movies. Yes, we are starting this early at the risk of offending all the Christmas purists who believe you can not watch Christmas movies before December 1. One of those people is my son who showed me this meme when I told him what we were doing:

Anyhow….I digress:

This week we are kicking things off with the origin of the definitive Christmas story (other than the real reason for the season, Christ’s birth) through the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Off the topic (again), but while looking for the movie on Amazon, a ton of movies that started with three words, The Man Who… popped up and made me realize that’s either a very popular title or a very lazy one.

The movie starts with an elated Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) who is in America, riding the wave of success of Oliver Twist. Within minutes, though, we are tossed into the future where Charles has just had three books flop.

He’s toured Britain and America and been celebrated in the past but now he is home and has what every writer dreads: writer’s block.

He needs a hit, not only for his ego but to pay for all the renovations at his home and to support his growing family.

Did you know that Dickens had 10 children? Because before watching this movie I didn’t either. I looked it up and found some other unpleasant behaviors of his, which was sad, but he was still a fascinating man.

Okay, back to the movie.

His publishers are ready to toss him out on his ear, but his agent suggests they keep him on if he writes a new book. The publishers are excited. Of course they will keep him on if he’s going to write them a new book they tell his agent.

The problem? Charles doesn’t even have an idea for a new book.

Bring in the new housemaid who begins telling stories that ignite his imagination and inspire him to tell the story of a selfish, bitter old man who begins to — quite literally — come alive in his mind.

He decides it will be a Christmas book but it’s halfway through October. “There isn’t time to write and publish a book and market it by Christmas,” they tell him.

He’s left to pay for the book on his own. Pay for it and write it at the same time his estranged father arrives for a visit.

This is the father whose debts left 12-year-old Charles working in a shoe factory to pay off those debts.

His relationship with his manipulative father weighs heavily on his writing of this new book which he eventually titles A Christmas Carol.

This movie takes the viewer on a delightful journey and you don’t have to be a writer to relate to the many interruptions he faces as he tries to write, but being one makes it even more relatable.

The insane creativity of this movie is what drew me in. Watching the characters appear in Dickens’ world as he writes them is fascinating for someone who also writes fiction and experiences characters come alive in my brain. Dickens also draws from his own life to craft his stories, which is again something I can also relate to. The way Charles lives his life with all his characters following him along each step of the way isn’t a far-fetched concept for writers who have done the same, though probably never finding as much success as Dickens and looking even crazier than he did.

My son tells me I’m borderline insane because I have a bunch of people living in my brain and sometimes I talk to them. He is, of course, joking. I think. He’d better be since he talks to the characters in his video games like they are real.

Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) wakes Charles at one point during the night in the movie and I had to laugh because that is when all the best ideas come for writers — when they’d rather be sleeping or need to be doing something else. I often feel like a character is whispering in my ear as I try to drift off, saying things like, “Hey, about that conversation I shared earlier, I forgot to tell you part of it. Can you just get up and write that part down so it’s accurate? That would be great.”

There is a great deal of sadness in the movie as Charles uncovers his own demons at the same time he uncovers Scrooge’s, but there is also incredible hope as he works to push his past heartache and bitterness to the side and find happiness in his life.

“I’m afraid,” he tells his friend/agent.

“What have you got to be afraid of?” the friend asks.

“That if I can’t finish it, I’ll never write again,” he responds.

It was a true fear for Charles, but ultimately unwarranted as he went on to write ten more novels, other novellas and short stories, including Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield.

Read Erin’s impression of the movie on her blog.

If you’d like to join us in this seven-week feature at any point, you can do so. Here is our list of upcoming movies (the dates are when we plan to publish our blog posts):

Nov. 17 A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong

Nov. 24: White Christmas

Dec. 1: Muppets Christmas Carol

Dec. 8: Holiday Inn                                                                           

Dec. 15: It’s A Wonderful Life

Dec. 22: Charlie Brown Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas