Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Author! Author!: Lewis Carroll

There have been quite a number of biopics of authors of fantasy over the years, some more realistic, some more romantic, and some frankly down-right fantastical. Over a few weeks I intend to review a few of them.
Dreamchild (1985), purports to tell the story of the widowed Alice Hargreaves, the erstwhile little girl on whom was based Alice in Wonderland; she is traveling to the United States on an invitation to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) at Columbia University. She is accompanied by the (fictional) orphan girl Lucy, who is wooed by a down-on-his-luck journalist in an effort to gain access to and exploit the elderly Alice. As Mrs. Hargreaves travels down the rabbit-hole of 1930's America, she has dreams about encountering the characters from the stories, and has childhood recollections about her friendship with the eccentric Oxford don. Although having conflicting memories of affection and ridicule, eventually she comes to a clearer understanding and reconciliation with her past and the loving friendship of the lonely Lewis Carroll.
Coral Brown plays Alice Hargreaves, Amelia Shankley the young Alice, and Ian Holm is Lewis Carroll. Jim Henson's Creature Shop provides the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and other characters from the book. Peter Gallagher and Nicola Cowper play the journalist and the orphan companion in the tacked-on "romantic" subplot. The main interest of the movie is, however, neither that nor the hallucinatory episodes of fantasy creatures, but the memories of Alice as a little girl, and her complicated (and controversial) relationship with the man who immortalized and idealized an aspect of her character in a classic work of children's literature.

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