A Christmas Carol (1999 Patrick Stewart)
Miserly Scrooge is visited by four spirits one Christmas Eve in an effort to reform his very nature, showing him past, present and future images of his life related to Christmas.
Spoiler Level: If you haven't seen at least one version of A Christmas Carol, well, humbug on you!
A continuation delving into the various versions of Charles Dicken’s classic tale
When it comes to the traditional classical interpretations, the only significant difference one can examine is “Who?”. Whether it is George C. Scott, Jim Carrey, Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, Kelsey Grammar or Reginal Owen, animated or live action, straight production or musical, the story remains consistent. Some productions will put more emphasis on certain plot points than others, but really, they all have remarkably similar scripts. The difference comes from the cast that is tasked with bringing the story to life and most notably, the actor who is playing Ebenezer.
The 1999 TNT television production saw Patrick Stewart staring as the miserly Scrooge. Patrick Stewart, best known as Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, was no stranger to the part of Ebenezer Scrooge, having created and starred in a one man stage production of “A Christmas Carol” for many years, starting in 1988. By the time this production was made, he had many years of practice playing “Ole Scratch”, so it is no shock that he thrives in this role. Scrooge must go through several stages of reformation throughout the story. He must be both charismatic and terrifying. Patrick Stewart is perfect.
This production starts on Christmas eve, seven years before the spirits visit. Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley has just passed, and Scrooge was the only one who attended his funeral. Patrick Stewart’s subtle nuances show little emotion, but there is a very subtle touch of tenderness in his demeanor as he says his goodbye. It is these nuances that really make this production shine. If Scrooge is seen to reform too quickly, then much of the story’s power is lost, if his reformation at the end is too abrupt, then it seems inconsistent and forced. Ebenezer must be seen to slowly learn the error of his ways and Patrick Stewart expertly does this. He does have the help of an outstanding cast. Joel Grey as the ghost of Christmas Past, really shines (pun intended) with a kind of empathy and caring. His gentle demeanor shows the goodness in mankind and is the perfect foil for the crotchety miser. Desmond Barrit as the Ghost of Christmas Present is the jovial soul spreading joy and laughter, something Scrooge has neither of. Ian McNeice as Fessiwig is the boss we all wish we had and his over the top flamboyance and generosity reminds Scrooge of who he was and even worse, what he has become. Richard E Grant as Bob Cratchit is the gentle loving father, timid in his fear of Scrooge and losing his only means of supporting his large family.
I am particularly fond of Patrick Stewart’s transformation at the end. His inability to laugh at first is both humorous and a bit sad as we see a man that has not heartily laughed in so long that his body does not know how. His new found joy is palpable as he greets people in the street and the fun he has with playing a little joke on Cratchit the day after Christmas is mixed with humor, caring and love.
I love this version of the story, but it isn’t quite perfect. Bernard Lloyd as Marley’s ghost is very well performed, but the Scrooge and Marley scene does not flow well. I feel like the editing is slightly off causing some slight pauses between dialogue that seems out of place. This is a particularly hard scene to perform as Scrooge needs to be convinced quickly that ghosts exist. This movie is just slightly off. Scrooge goes from scared non-believer to inquisitive believer too quickly and with little to convince him that his senses are not playing tricks on him. In addition to that scene, the Ghost of Christmas Future, is less terrifying than in other productions. The image formed by the costume is not imposing enough. There is no real fear to be had from this hooded figure. The very image of death itself should be conveyed by the first glimpse of this character, but in this case, the costumer missed the mark. Both are very small things and do not overshadow how amazing a production this is.
One of the best versions of the story, expertly performed by Patrick Stewart.
A Christmas Carol: Mankind was our business!
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 9/109/10
Production - 9/109/10
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