Monday, December 17, 2012

Year One. Day Eight: "An American Christmas Carol" (1979)

Day Eight of my Advent Christmas Carol Challenge:

"An American Christmas Carol" (1979)

As the title would suggest, this time around Dickens' story has skipped across the Atlantic and is now set during that time of cruel economic inequality, the Great Depression.

Perhaps taking the term "depression" a little too far, this version of the tale is quite easily the bleakest, greyest and drabbest I have yet seen. It is also, by some margin, the angriest version so far.

Henry Winkler is playing Scrooge, (renamed Slade this time around), and he handles the role quite brilliantly - even if his layers of prosthetic makeup give him the appearance of a wax figure of The Fonze that got damaged in a fire.

All the hallmarks you would expect of the traditional tale are here, but each is given a uniquely American spin, so much so that the story fits beautifully with the time and location.

What sets it apart is that this version is told with none of the humour of previous adaptations, and asks us to be genuinely appalled, not just by Slade and his miserly ways, but of Henry Hoover, capitalism itself and that very specific brand of selfishness that still permeates a great deal of American politics today.

Another unique aspect is the ending of this film. There is never truly a sense of euphoria about Slade's redemption, in fact, because he himself may be selfish, but is at the same time not tremendously wealthy, he can only do so much with his money.

It's an interesting twist, and one which means that there are no quick fix solutions for any of the characters. Slade can try his best, but there is never any guarantee of a better future. Moreover, while he struggles to do the right thing with his wealth, it is his new sense of compassion that is likely to go much further.

As bleak and haunting as a night with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

"An American Christmas Carol" 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment