Saturday, December 21, 2019

FX's A Christmas Carol is Bleak & Beautiful

FX’s gritty take on A Christmas Carol is neither a holiday classic reborn, nor meant for audiences fond of the heartwarming adaptations based on Charles Dicken’s novella. This is a new story about the cost of being good. It’s relentlessly bleak & grim with problematic moments that will distress many audiences at the peak of the yuletide season. There’s also some unexpected nudity & gore including scenes with a ripped off jaw, a mouse beheading, and bloody explosion. The movie presents an unpleasant reality of life and it’s a world far away from a Norman Rockwell commemorative dinner plate.

So the question is why take a well-known story and push it to such dark corners? There’s definitely some counter programming from the FX network for those oversaturated with saccharine holiday fare. More pointedly though, is the vexing need to understand our monsters. Our world is full of them from the White House to the mall shootings. It’s not simply enough to know that someone is bad. We want to see why they are bad and how they became the villain. Perhaps as a cautionary tale or perhaps as a barometer for our own deeds.

Most of the movie focuses on Ebeneezer Scrooge's (Guy Pearce) current and past relationships including his rather mouthy clerk Bob Cratchit (a fine Joe Alwyn) and Mary Cratchit (a resolute Vinette Robinson). The machinations may be different, but the ghosts and the lesson remain the same. A damaged soul may never mend but with a commitment to work, goodness may still be possible. Don’t we all seek redemption? Here we see the beginning of one man’s journey in that work but the ending feels incredibly rushed. I feel some editing was made to the U.S. version of this BBC production which airs with no commercials. The end will placate the need to see some sort of resolution even though the final moment with a stock "magical" character is seriously unforgivable.

However grim the journey, the cast keeps the viewer engaged for the nearly three-hour ordeal, as does the production design which is absolutely beautiful to behold. There's a definitive touch of darkness with lighting and set pieces that suggest a nod towards the horror genre but ultimately this is an evocative drama with fantastical elements. It shouldn't be missed but not recommended widely to general audiences.





Editor's Note: While I love the poster artwork for the TV movie, I absolutely despise when poster elements have little to do with the actual movie. The sharp-nailed grim reaper figure featured prominently in the poster is nowhere to be seen in the final production! BOO!


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