Nicholas Nickleby


2h 12m 2002

Brief Synopsis

A tale based on the classic novel, "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" by Charles Dickens. Set in 19th Century England, the story revolves around the resourceful Nicholas Nickleby and his beloved family, as their world changes dramatically when tragedy strikes. The Nicklebys have always e

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
2002
Distribution Company
METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. (MGM )
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m

Synopsis

A tale based on the classic novel, "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" by Charles Dickens. Set in 19th Century England, the story revolves around the resourceful Nicholas Nickleby and his beloved family, as their world changes dramatically when tragedy strikes. The Nicklebys have always enjoyed a comfortable life; however when Nicholas' father dies, they are left penniless and are forced to leave their lives behind. Subsequently, Nicholas, his sister and mother journey to London to live with their Uncle Ralph, whom they soon discover is wicked. Uncle Ralph plots demonic machinations to scatter them apart from each other. Nicholas is sent away to work as a teacher at a school run by a cruel headmaster named Wackford Squeers; however, he eventually runs away with one of his students, Smike, on a mission to protect his family. Nicholas makes every attempt to reunite the Nickleby family--against all odds.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
2002
Distribution Company
METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. (MGM )
Location
London, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m

Articles

Nicholas Nickleby on DVD


Much as he had with his adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma (1996), writer/director Douglas McGrath delivered another very palatable translation of 19th century English Lit to the screen last winter. His colorful take on Charles Dickens' tale of familial unity, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), has recently been released on DVD by MGM Home Video. McGrath admittedly only drew upon one-seventh of Dickens' 800-page tome and brought his narrative in at a remarkably crisp 132 minutes, but he did so in a manner that admirably reflected the tone and concerns of the author's works.

The opening montage takes us through the hero's middle-class yet blissfully idyllic childhood spent in the British countryside, and how it all caved in with his father's financial ruination and death. The now 19-year-old Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam), with his sister Kate (Romala Garai) and his mother (Stella Gonet) in tow, heads for the squalor of downtown London to humbly ask assistance of his uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), a callous speculator far more concerned with profit than family. With as much beneficence as he can apparently muster, Ralph lines up piecework jobs for his sister-in-law and niece, and packs Nicholas off to a teaching position at a Yorkshire boarding school.

To Nicholas' dismay, the school is an unspeakable hellhole lorded over by two of the most reprehensible figures in Dickens' oeuvre, the brutish one-eyed headmaster Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) and his sadistic harridan of a wife (Juliet Stevenson). Nicholas grows wearier by the day of the abuse they heap upon their charges, particularly Smike (Jamie Bell), a handicapped boy essentially pressed into servitude once a long-forgotten guardian had cut off tuition. The young teacher finally snaps when Squeers administers a particularly brutal beating to Smike, dishing out some corporal punishment of his own and hastening the younger man away from the premises.

Being Dickens, it's a certainty that the hero will meet with benefactors as improbably kindly as his tormentors are grotesque. In their flight, Nicholas and Smike encounter a traveling acting troupe headed by the avuncular showman Vincent Crummles (Nathan Lane) and his wife (Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage), who swiftly offer them positions within the company. Once Nicholas receives a family summons back to London, he almost immediately falls into a desirable clerking position with the portly, affable twin barristers Charles and Ned Cheeryble (Timothy Spall, Gerard Horan).

It seems that Uncle Ralph has taken to offering Kate as eye candy for his business associates, with the old roue Sir Mulberry Hawk (Edward Fox) being particularly bullying in his flirtations. Once Nicholas intercedes, the bilious uncle makes it his life's mission to dash whatever happiness his nephew can find, up to and including interfering with Nicholas' courtship of the destitute but proud Madeline Bray (Anne Hathaway).

Considering that the Royal Shakespeare Company found nine hours of material to mine out of the story back in their '80s stage production, the success of McGrath's compression is all the more remarkable. The denouement does gives the sense that too much had to be told too fast, but not to an unpardonable extent. Production designer Eve Stewart made an impressive use of palette in the cheeriness of the family settings and the palpable unpleasantness of the school and the London streets, and cinematographer Dick Pope captured it all with precision and skill. The lilting score by Rachel Portman complements the whole enterprise nicely.

Hunnam, earlier best known for his efforts on the original Queer As Folk for British television, does a serviceable job in the title role, which primarily requires him to be handsome, stalwart, and earnest in his affections for the luminous Hathaway. Besides, the protagonist is seldom the most memorable character in Dickens, and the talented ensemble took obvious relish in tackling their roles. Plummer is perfect in his reptilian aloofness, and Broadbent and Stevenson both showed inventiveness and brio in their bringing added dimensions to the repulsive Squeers clan.

Bell offered considered and contemplative work as the luckless Smike, Lane brought bombast and charm to his role, and Humphries made the audacious choice to cast him in drag work out to a T. Nods are also deserved to Tom Courtenay as Uncle Ralph's downtrodden manservant, and Alan Cumming, underutilized as a member of the Crummles' company.

MGM delivered a deservedly crisp job on the DVD master, which is presented in both pan-and-scan and widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The English audio track is offered in Dolby 5.1 Surround. Notable amongst the extras is the full-length audio commentary by McGrath. Coupled with a half-hour documentary about the project's creation, and a "Cast On The Cast" featurette shot at the time of the film's New York premiere where the players shared their mutual impressions, the viewer gets a wealth of insights. Rounding out the package is a "View From The Set" menu that allows the viewer to toggle through multiple camera perspectives during the filming of select scenes, a small still gallery, the theatrical trailer, and assorted trailers for MGM catalog titles.

For more information about Nicholas Nickleby, visit MGM Home Video. Nicholas Nickleby, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay Steinberg
Nicholas Nickleby On Dvd

Nicholas Nickleby on DVD

Much as he had with his adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma (1996), writer/director Douglas McGrath delivered another very palatable translation of 19th century English Lit to the screen last winter. His colorful take on Charles Dickens' tale of familial unity, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), has recently been released on DVD by MGM Home Video. McGrath admittedly only drew upon one-seventh of Dickens' 800-page tome and brought his narrative in at a remarkably crisp 132 minutes, but he did so in a manner that admirably reflected the tone and concerns of the author's works. The opening montage takes us through the hero's middle-class yet blissfully idyllic childhood spent in the British countryside, and how it all caved in with his father's financial ruination and death. The now 19-year-old Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam), with his sister Kate (Romala Garai) and his mother (Stella Gonet) in tow, heads for the squalor of downtown London to humbly ask assistance of his uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), a callous speculator far more concerned with profit than family. With as much beneficence as he can apparently muster, Ralph lines up piecework jobs for his sister-in-law and niece, and packs Nicholas off to a teaching position at a Yorkshire boarding school. To Nicholas' dismay, the school is an unspeakable hellhole lorded over by two of the most reprehensible figures in Dickens' oeuvre, the brutish one-eyed headmaster Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) and his sadistic harridan of a wife (Juliet Stevenson). Nicholas grows wearier by the day of the abuse they heap upon their charges, particularly Smike (Jamie Bell), a handicapped boy essentially pressed into servitude once a long-forgotten guardian had cut off tuition. The young teacher finally snaps when Squeers administers a particularly brutal beating to Smike, dishing out some corporal punishment of his own and hastening the younger man away from the premises. Being Dickens, it's a certainty that the hero will meet with benefactors as improbably kindly as his tormentors are grotesque. In their flight, Nicholas and Smike encounter a traveling acting troupe headed by the avuncular showman Vincent Crummles (Nathan Lane) and his wife (Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage), who swiftly offer them positions within the company. Once Nicholas receives a family summons back to London, he almost immediately falls into a desirable clerking position with the portly, affable twin barristers Charles and Ned Cheeryble (Timothy Spall, Gerard Horan). It seems that Uncle Ralph has taken to offering Kate as eye candy for his business associates, with the old roue Sir Mulberry Hawk (Edward Fox) being particularly bullying in his flirtations. Once Nicholas intercedes, the bilious uncle makes it his life's mission to dash whatever happiness his nephew can find, up to and including interfering with Nicholas' courtship of the destitute but proud Madeline Bray (Anne Hathaway). Considering that the Royal Shakespeare Company found nine hours of material to mine out of the story back in their '80s stage production, the success of McGrath's compression is all the more remarkable. The denouement does gives the sense that too much had to be told too fast, but not to an unpardonable extent. Production designer Eve Stewart made an impressive use of palette in the cheeriness of the family settings and the palpable unpleasantness of the school and the London streets, and cinematographer Dick Pope captured it all with precision and skill. The lilting score by Rachel Portman complements the whole enterprise nicely. Hunnam, earlier best known for his efforts on the original Queer As Folk for British television, does a serviceable job in the title role, which primarily requires him to be handsome, stalwart, and earnest in his affections for the luminous Hathaway. Besides, the protagonist is seldom the most memorable character in Dickens, and the talented ensemble took obvious relish in tackling their roles. Plummer is perfect in his reptilian aloofness, and Broadbent and Stevenson both showed inventiveness and brio in their bringing added dimensions to the repulsive Squeers clan. Bell offered considered and contemplative work as the luckless Smike, Lane brought bombast and charm to his role, and Humphries made the audacious choice to cast him in drag work out to a T. Nods are also deserved to Tom Courtenay as Uncle Ralph's downtrodden manservant, and Alan Cumming, underutilized as a member of the Crummles' company. MGM delivered a deservedly crisp job on the DVD master, which is presented in both pan-and-scan and widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The English audio track is offered in Dolby 5.1 Surround. Notable amongst the extras is the full-length audio commentary by McGrath. Coupled with a half-hour documentary about the project's creation, and a "Cast On The Cast" featurette shot at the time of the film's New York premiere where the players shared their mutual impressions, the viewer gets a wealth of insights. Rounding out the package is a "View From The Set" menu that allows the viewer to toggle through multiple camera perspectives during the filming of select scenes, a small still gallery, the theatrical trailer, and assorted trailers for MGM catalog titles. For more information about Nicholas Nickleby, visit MGM Home Video. Nicholas Nickleby, go to TCM Shopping. by Jay Steinberg

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the 2002 award for Best Acting by an Ensemble from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Released in United States Winter December 27, 2002

Released in United States on Video July 22, 2003

Released in United States Winter December 27, 2002

Released in United States on Video July 22, 2003