"Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story." (1995)
Just two days after reviewing a modern day retelling of the "Christmas Carol" story, with a woman in the lead role and produced by Hallmark, comes another.
The big difference this time around, is that this version is absolutely wonderful.
Scrooge, now somewhat unimaginatively renamed "Elizabeth 'Ebbie' Scrooge" is portrayed by Susan Lucci - a woman best known to Americans as the leading lady of daytime TV, thanks to her role in the soap opera, "All My Children."
Quite simply, she is marvelous. Her understanding of the character is utterly in the spirit of Dickens' creation.
She is miserly and unkind, she is selfish and greedy; but most importantly, unlike the other three productions I have seen where a woman takes the lead role, her greatest failing isn't just that she's a bitch (at least two of these productions have subtly seemed to hint that women in business will ultimately turn into shrews, and really should have just married that man they fell in love with years ago instead.)
The script too, is quite masterful. In a way it is almost a word for word rewriting of Dickens' lines, with contemporary references in place of Victorian ones, meaning that the story is actually one of the most faithful I have seen so far.
Lucci's performance as Scrooge is incredible. Initially it seemed that she was playing the character as too cruel, to the extent that it would be hard to find sympathy for her. However, very subtly, her characterisation changes, until the end where I was literally weeping for her.
Yes, there are moments of saccharine emotion as you would expect from the Hallmark channel, but even these seemed to fit in perfectly - after all, it was Dickens himself who first had Tiny Tim singing a carol at the Christmas table, not this movie!
This version of the story took me completely by surprise and by the end I was utterly bowled over by it. I expected this movie to be yet another mediocre, made-for-TV production and instead, was left wondering if this was possibly the greatest adaptation I had seen so far.
As joyous as running through the snowy streets of London in your nightgown.
"Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story" (1995) 5/5