Nicholas Nickleby is an excellent unwilling hero of the story, who is given a large task of taking control of his family despite the fact of his young age and must become a man through some extraordinary situations. Charlie Hunnam whom I’ve seen in the underrated “Undeclared” and the muddled “Abandon” is great as Nicholas, the strong-willed, courageous, outspoken and humble hero who becomes a truly admirable savior to many of the characters. Hunnam whose ability I’ve doubted in his recent roles is great as Nickleby giving him a sense of power and courage and injecting a lot of likable traits in him. He’s a great character and a very memorable hero of the Dickens’ stories and for some reason his cruel uncle Ralph takes an instant disliking to him. He sees in him everything he’s not.
Ralph is a cruel, arrogant, aristocrat aided by his disloyal servant Newman Noggs played by Tom Courtenay who mocks him every times Ralph barks an order at him, and Nicholas seems to have what Ralph doesn’t have, a sense of courage, a sense of honor, and the willingness to face anything that comes his way, though we do get a sense of his humanity, as whenever he’s at a time of weakness he asks for help from his father’s spirit begging that he help him, scenes that are often sad. “Nickleby” is not considered one of Dickens’ classics but regardless it does have his usual formula of a young hero experiencing an array of cruel wicked villains, it’s a very Capra-esque story, and a very likable one.
The cast of very talented actors give great performances, most notably that of Christopher Plummer who is excellent and despicable as the intimidating Uncle Ralph who dislikes his family despite being alone in the world. Plummer is very good in his role mostly staying immersed in the dark plotting his next revenge plan on Nickleby. Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson are great as the wicked Squeers’ family who take delight in torturing young boys in the school and have spoiled children including two daughters, one of whom attempts to court Nickleby with little success.
Director Douglas McGrath creates the perfect image of the nineteenth century London with beautiful costumes, grim, and sometimes beautiful scenery, and great direction that helps to establish the story, and there manages to become some truly memorable sequences. The story is just so engrossing as we watch the array of lovable characters and despicable characters we just love to hate, within that is the story of a young man who refuses to stand down from his uncle despite the immense power he has which makes way for a surprise ending that makes this film worth the time spent. “Nicholas Nickleby” is an absolutely entertaining, well acted, and well-directed film adaptation.