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Film / The Man Who Invented Christmas

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Dickens: Mr. Scrooge, you and I are going to do wonderful things together.
Scrooge: I severely doubt that.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a 2017 biopic based off the book of the same name by Les Sandiford detailing the creation of A Christmas Carol, starring Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens, Jonathan Pryce as John Dickens, and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge.

In 1843, Dickens is still England's most popular novelist, but his last three books haven't been big hits. Needing money and something to restore his reputation, he sets down in six weeks to write what will become A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, his father John Dickens comes to town for a visit, bringing Charles into conflict with him and his own troubled past.

Tropes include:

  • Advertised Extra: Sort of. Anna Murphy plays both Tara and the Ghost of Christmas Past. The ghost only appears in one small scene, but she's featured on the poster.
  • Amoral Attorney: Mr. Haddock (the inspiration for Jacob Marley), the lawyer and money-lender hired by Dickens for a copyright suit seems to be somewhat scrupulous by the standards of the time, but his greedy and cold-hearted ethics and personality evoke this. He offers his guests maggot-ridden cookies, casually suggesting the idea of putting the plagiarists into debtors prison (which an appalled Charles refuses) then billing Charles for his effort despite not recovering any money and giving him a loan extension under rather lopsided conditions.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: In-Universe, Chapman & Hall refuse to publish A Christmas Carol believing it would be a flop because Christmas isn't a big holiday, so Dickens has to pay for the book's publishing out of his own pocket. Of course it proves to be a big hit, and is also responsible for making Christmas an important holiday again.
  • And You Were There: Many of the characters Dickens creates are based on, and played by, people he comes across while looking for inspiration. Lampshaded when he tells the illustrator that the Ghost of Christmas Present is essentially Forster and gets him to pose for the role.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Unlike the book, the film glosses over that it was a speech in Manchester and a visit to a "ragged" school in London that also inspired Dickens to write the story.
    • The film also fails to mention that Dickens didn't make that much money from the initial printing of the book; although the book was a huge hit, his insistence on hand-colored illustrations and decorations (very expensive at the time) on each page ate into his share of the profits.
  • Call-Forward: A constable who's a fan of Martin Chuzzlewit has the last name Copperfield, which Dickens will use for David Copperfield.
  • Casting Gag: Simon Callow, who plays John Leech, the illustrator, has also played both Ebenezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens.
  • Condescending Compassion: Thackery seems giddy at the chance to read bad reviews of other authors (and a Shakespearean actor he spots in the restaurant as well) under the guise of giving condolences.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe, Dickens has one when he's struggling to finish the last chapter complete with throwing a tantrum in his study.
  • Creator Recovery: In-Universe; after Dickens finally realizes he doesn't need to let his horrible childhood hold him back, he finds the inspiration to finish the book.
  • Daddy Issues: A good chunk of the film is Dickens' resentment against his father, whose financial irresponsibility led the family into poverty and young Charles being sent to work in a boot-blacking factory. The fact that John still continues his spendthrift ways only gives more fuel to those resentments.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dickens's childhood working in a factory casts a stain on his soul, and he's eager to hide it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge is full of one-liners criticizing Dickens or his writing.
    Dickens: I'm the author here!
    Scrooge: Allegedly.
  • Death by Adaptation: Almost. Tiny Tim was originally meant to die and stay dead, but Dickens is convinced to spare him as part of Scrooge's redemption.
  • Dramatic Wind: Invoked. Dickens keeps his window open as he's thinking up the characters, and wind kicks in when he says Scrooge's name—prompting imaginary Scrooge to tell him to shut the window.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe, Dickens notes that Forster made him kill off Little Nell.
  • Friend to All Children: John Dickens is an instant hit at Charles' house, befriending his children immediately.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Thackeray is one of Dickens' literary rivals and is happy to quote negative reviews of his books, but he's concerned for Charles' well-being and admits to being moved by A Christmas Carol.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Dickens and Forster are very close friends, with the latter giving him writing advice as well as being a confidant.
  • I Just Write the Thing: Dickens laments that he's supposed to be the author here but the characters keep doing what they want or refusing to do what he wants.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Charles giving his father a "Reason You Suck" Speech is a low moment for him. But the father has been in the house for weeks, under false pretenses of writing for the paper, all the while spending Charles's money and distracting him with his silly antics.
  • Manchild: John Dickens is specifically stated to have never quite grown up.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: As in Real Life, the Dickenses have several children, and Kate informs Charles during the course of the film that another one is on the way.
  • Mood-Swinger: Kate Dickens laments that she can never tell what mood Charles will be in and feels like she has to walk on eggshells around him.
  • Mr. Imagination: Dickens's imagination is so vivid, the characters come to life and converse with him and each other. It's implied he gets it from his father, who spins wild fairy tales.
  • Must Make Amends: Dickens is horrified when he realizes he unjustly fired Tara in a fit of anger, and insists she be given her job back. Luckily for him she comes back to return the copy of Arabian Nights he lent her, providing him with the opportunity to apologize and give her back her post.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Dickens treats his household staff extremely well, even letting one of the maids borrow his books... as long as he's not moody.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The factory Dickens worked in as a child has long since closed down, leaving it in considerable disrepair when he returns during the climax.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Dickens isn't much different from Scrooge. Jacob Marley points this out early on, and Scrooge himself does when Dickens fires Tara and alienates his loved ones out of selfishness and fear.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: A source of drama for Dickens's dear friend Forster, who is very much in love with a girl whose father has forbidden her to marry him. Happily, he changes his mind by the end of the film and they are engaged.
  • Rage Against the Author: Scrooge takes offense to not being able to present his side of things and even writes a speech about the virtues of the free market, which Dickens rejects. Later, every other character refuses to work with Dickens after he alienates his family and friends.
  • Remake Cameo: Ian MacNeice, who played Mr. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol (1999), plays Edward Chapman here.
  • Remittance Man: An unusual variation, with a son paying his father, rather than the other way around.
  • Rule of Drama: In real life Dickens had no noted difficulties in writing A Christmas Carol aside from the publication issues, but that would make for a boring story.
  • Running Gag: Dickens constantly being interrupted while writing or when he gets the right inspiration.
  • Shadow Archetype: Scrooge represents Dickens' own insecurities and fears, and confronting them through him inspires Dickens to finish the book.
  • Shout-Out: When imaginary Scrooge first sees the equally imaginary Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come, he says nearly verbatim: "I've got a bad feeling about this."
  • Small Name, Big Ego: John Dickens. When little Charles is sent to the boot-blacking factory, his father tells him not to cry and to tell whoever's in charge that he's the son of John Dickens, implying that this is going to protect him and give him importance. Naturally, all it results in for little Charles is mockery and humiliation. The fact that John still acts as though he's much more famous or significant than he is contributes to his son's lingering Daddy Issues.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After Martin Chuzzlewit is lambasted by critics and fans for a majority of the film, Dickens finally finds someone who likes it at the end.
  • Tuckerization: In-universe, Dickens borrows Marley's name from a waiter with the same name.
  • Where It All Began: In the climax, Dickens returns to the factory where he worked as a child and confronts his inner demons.
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Tara the maid - an orphan Irish girl - gives Charles a speech on why it's important for Scrooge to change.
  • Writers Suck: A humorous example. Dickens argues with his own characters about his importance in writing the story - and loses.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Dickens writing A Christmas Carol helps him reconnect with his family and friends in a manner similar to Scrooge.