On the death of his father, Nicholas Nickleby travels to London with his mother and his sister Kate in the hopes that his uncle, Ralph Nickleby, might be in a position to offer them some assistance. ...
After the death of his father, Nicholas Nickleby along with his sister Kate and their mother find themselves in difficult conditions. They relocate to London in the hope that Uncle Ralph Nickleby, a successful businessman, will help them out but he proves to be difficult and cold towards his relatives. Nicholas sets off on a series of adventures starting as a school master for the one-eyed Wackford Squeers. He soon escapes the school and in the company of his new friend Smike, joins a theater group in Portsmouth. Good fortune befalls him when he meets the Cheerybles who offer him stable employment. His uncle has taken a severe dislike to the boy however and goes out of his way to make life difficult for him.Written by
On the most part it's very good, though with flaws
The book is, as ever with Charles Dickens, an absorbing and interesting read if somewhat sprawling in structure. This 1977 adaptation is fine generally as an adaptation and it does very well on its own terms. In regard to Dickens adaptations, it's neither among the best or worst ever- sort of the very solid but flawed kind- but of Nicholas Nickleby it is one of the better ones. A couple of scenes especially the Matilda Price tea party scene did agreed seem underwritten, and the adaptation can feel rushed. The book has a lot going on, and the adaptation while mostly fine could have done with more time to breathe to develop things more. Two performances didn't seem quite there, Kate Nicholls spent a lot of her screen time looking lost and Anthony Ainley plays Sir Mulberry Hawk far too broadly.
But the rest of the performances are fine though, the secondary characters are somewhat caricatures anyway but the actors, some with stage experience, give them their all. Freddie Jones and Patricia Routledge are particularly worth looking out for. Nigel Havers plays Nicholas with sincerity and hot-headedness, he is in a way too old for the character but when he plays him so well it doesn't matter. Peter Bourke's Smike is extraordinarily moving, Derek Francis is a menacing Wackford Squeers and Hilary Mason is outstanding as Mrs Nickleby(not many other adaptations of the book have written Mrs Nickleby as well as here as well). Derek Godfrey's Ralph Nickleby is commanding and complex, I interpreted the reason for Ralph's suicide to be because of the thought of his only son dying hating him, this said this is clear in the book but could have been a little more in the adaptation. The Cheerybles could have been problematically played, agreed it is because the characters are impossibly good, but very nicely filled actually.
It is a very well made and slickly directed adaptation too, skilfully shot with nothing unnatural about it. The countryside views and sets are breathtaking and true to the period, nothing too clean or bleak here, and the towns, houses and costumes are very well-thought out. The music is kept at minimum, to the point it's barely used. Considering though that the narrative changes around tonally a lot that was a very good decision to make. The dialogue is literate, with the comic elements funny, the sinister elements suspenseful and the heartfelt drama poignant. Very Dickenesian too in flavour. The story is compelling, faithful and easy to follow, just that because of the sprawling structure and a tendency to be rushed there are moments of choppiness here and there.
Overall, flawed but very good and works generally works adaptation-wise too. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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