Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

For A Shroud of Thoughts’ 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon, I decided to choose a film that was already located on my DVR. Since last February, I have had a recording of the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Because this story takes place in 19th century England and because this blogathon celebrates British cinema, reviewing the movie seemed like a perfect choice! Nicholas Nickleby is not the first adaptation based on a Charles Dickens novel I’ve written about. Within these two years, I have reviewed Oliver!, Oliver & Company, and The Death of Poor Joe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Nicholas Nickleby was based on a book by Charles Dickens until I saw the film’s opening credits. This film selection is a blessing in disguise. It not only gives me an opportunity to watch more movies from my DVR, but it also allows me to expand my cinematic horizons!

This is a screenshot I took with my phone of the movie’s poster that was displayed on my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Nicholas and Smike have one of the most beautiful friendships I’ve ever seen put on film! This is the result of good screen-writing and good acting! Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell put emotion and heart into their individual roles. Together, they display strong on-screen camaraderie. A great example is when Nicholas is trying to read a story to Smike at Dotheboys Hall. Nicholas Nickleby contained an ensemble cast. Each actor and actress worked well with one another, as the performances complimented and highlighted every talent shown on screen. From Anne Hathaway’s use of various emotions to Christopher Plummer’s consistency, all the interactions brought out the best in each cast member!

The dialogue: As I just mentioned, Nicholas and Smike’s friendship was partly the result of good screen-writing. The movie’s screen-writing is also what caused the dialogue to be so memorable! Every piece of conversation reflected this film’s time period. However, the dialogue sounded eloquent without being pretentious. It was also easy to understand, allowing the audience to make sense of what the characters are saying. In one scene, Nicholas is helping Smike escape his kidnapping. The way he told Smike to hurry out of his current location contained urgency and importance. Conversations like the one I just referenced were a consistent and present component of this film!

A balance of despair and joy: I haven’t read Nicholas Nickleby, but I have read Oliver Twist. From what I remember, Charles Dickens found a way to balance the ideas of despair and joy. This balance can be found in the 2002 film! In the movie’s darker moments, despair could be seen and felt. It showed how ugliness presented itself in Nicholas’ world. But there was not so much of this ugliness and despair to make the audience feel depressed. Moments of joy and happiness served to counteract the darker moments. When joyous scenes occurred, they felt earned by the characters. At the same time, they didn’t make it seem like the rest of the film couldn’t be taken seriously. Instead, the incorporation of joy showed how there was beauty in the world, especially if Nicholas searched for it.

The 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts. Image found at http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2020/06/announcing-7th-annual-rule-britannia.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lots of content in a limited time-frame: Having read two of Charles Dickens’ books, I know there is a lot of content in his stories. While watching Nicholas Nickleby, I could see there was a significant amount of content. The movie is two hours and twelve minutes. But because each plot point was seen as important, the run-time was bogged down by the large number of storylines. This caused the film to feel longer than its run-time. It makes me wonder if this particular narrative would have benefitted from a mini-series format?

Some unsmooth scene transitions: There were a few scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby that weren’t given smooth transitions. When the story shows Kate’s, Nicholas’ sister’s, perspective, the chapter comes and ends more abruptly than other scenes. It almost feels like the plot temporarily shifts the protagonist role from Nicholas to Kate. Even though Kate plays an important role in Nicholas’ life, she is a supporting character, while her brother is the main character.

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Nicholas Nickleby is the fourth adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ works I’ve reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. Out of these four, the best one is still the 1968 musical Oliver! Because I have read its source material, I know there was some content that was cut from the movie, likely for reasons relating to the run-time. Unlike Oliver!, Nicholas Nickleby contained a lot of content that effected its run-time. However, the story was understandable and the screen-writing was strong! Even though there were a few unsmooth scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby, it never became a common occurrence. What was common was great acting performances, well-written dialogue, and relatable messages! Nicholas Nickleby does a good job at showing how there is both darkness and goodness in our world. In a year like 2020, where it seems like there is one conflict after another, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer. Because of his bad and good experiences, Nicholas Nickleby always perseveres and never takes anything for granted. This is what we can learn from Nicholas’ story, whether or not Charles Dickens intended to teach his readers.

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations from Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any British films you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

6 thoughts on “Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

  1. I have a “love/hate” thing with Dickens, but that’s all from the school days when i was forced to read “Great Expectations.” Given my own choice, it’s become more love than hate, and I will have to give this incarnation a look!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my review, J-Dub! I haven’t read ‘Great Expectations’, but I have read ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. Because I enjoyed the 2002 adaptation of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, I now want to read its source material! If you do plan on watching ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dickens is my favourite author and I find much to admire in many of the adaptions of his stories.

    The 1947 version of Nicholas Nickleby has a very fine cast that matches that of the 2002 movie.

    The best version of the story to watch is the 1982 television version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s phenomenal hit stage production. The play was an 8 and a half hour theatrical experience and the repertory cast (playing many differing characters) with the exception of the Nicklebys and Smike. It is glorious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking out my review, Patricia! I’m glad to hear you enjoy the works of Charles Dickens! I will definitely add the 1947 and 1982 adaptations to my movie recommendations Pinterest board.

      Like

  3. mercurie80

    I think you are right about Nicholas Nickleby (2002). I think it might have been better done as a mini-series. That’s nothing against the movie, as I think that is true of most of Charles Dickens’s novels. At any rate, I have always liked this version of Nicholas Nickleby. It has a great cast and the dialogue is spot on. Anyway, thank you for taking part in the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for reading my review! After I saw this film, I learned ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ was a serialized story in (I believe) newspapers at that time. This would explain why Charles’ literary works usually contain so much content.

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