Note: This movie review is one of the films in my Top 5 Queer Holiday Film 2019
We all know the classic story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s often retold annually around the holidays, and every so often a new movie comes out to put its own little twist on the classic story. This time, with “Scrooge & Marley”, we have a queer twist – along with some modernisation!
Synopsis of “Scrooge & Marley”
Many of the changes and the gay-ifications are clear cut. Ben Scrooge, aka Ebenezer, (David Pevsner) is now a middle aged, bitter queen. He runs a nightclub called Screws, where Robert, aka Bob Cratchit (David Shae) is the manager trying to make a living for his partner Drew (Scott Duff) and adopted children, including the quite ill Tiny Tim (Liam Jones). The three charity collectors are now LGBT charities – but still turned away by Ben’s miserly ideals. Ben’s niece is a lesbian, but it’s her partner (Rusty Schwimmer) who asks Ben to visit on Christmas. Marley remains himself, though now gay. Our Ghost of Christmas Past is actually the bartender, Randy (Ronnie Kroell) – who takes us on a whimsical, popper filled whisk through Ben’s past. The Ghost of Christmas Present also works at the nightclub and even has a vintage musical number! The Ghost of Christmas Future is really the only character that is not gay-ified, but probably because that role is usually a mute, grim reaper-esque character.
But with all of these gay twists and changes, is “Scrooge & Marley” actually a decent film? Let’s dig into the nitty gritty details.
While there are great liberties taken to make it queer, the spirit of the story remains true in “Scrooge & Marley”. It’s one of the key facets for any modern adaptation. The writers even attempted to add some comedy into the story, which is a pleasant surprise. There is also a familiarity to the balance of the story, though the flow isn’t always as smooth. Lastly, this queer film is relatable: we are able to put ourselves in Scrooge’s position and actually feel what the ghost’s excursion evokes. This helps create that happy feeling at the end when he is redeemed.
The added queer elements in “Scrooge & Marley” work rather well, even though the story wasn’t written from that angle. There’s some obvious changing to the story during the Ghost of Christmas past’s segment, such as Scrooge’s dad kicking him out of the house because he is gay leading him to show up at Fezziwig’s – the gay sauna/nightclub. There’s a bit more emphasis on Scrooge’s first partner, Bill (Christopher Allen), including the eventual pushing him aside for money. Heck, even using poppers/amyl to “skip” along Scrooge’s past is a whimsical gay touch!
Not all of the script changes work as great however. The writers added an interesting prelude to the story with Marley (Tim Kazurinsky) and three drag queen ghost clowns (yes… THAT’s a bit weird!) It implies that Marley is only trying to save Scrooge in order to save himself – which would be characteristically typical of Marley but adds an off-taste to the entire film and almost diminishes Scrooge’s redemption. There are also a lot of montages in “Scrooge & Marley” that don’t occur in the original material, which I’m not sure actually help the flow of the story. They help to create a broader picture, but the classic tale and most film adaptations are able to achieve the same setup by just highlighting the key notable times/events. Thus, we lose half a point because of some script & adaptation issues.
The other major flaw with “Scrooge & Marley” actually encompasses a couple of my rating categories as this film is clearly an independent, borderline “amateur” film. Many of the key cinematic elements are unpolished and as a whole, bring the positive aspects of this film down a notch. We have some sound balancing issues, notable most during the voiceover intro and finale, but also during the few musical numbers. (Many of which lack that extra “oomph”, as it is!) Most of the songs/musical numbers are unnecessary and actually creates some confusion. Is this a movie with musical numbers? Is it a musical? We really aren’t sure as “Scrooge & Marley” jostle between musical numbers. And unfortunately the camera work is predominantly oddly framed wide angle shots and handheld camera work. While some films require that unique style, it’s actual a distraction here.
There’s also something about the sets & locations that don’t always work. It’s clear that they are filming in actual locations rather than on a soundstage or built-for-cinema sets (evidenced by the many wide angle shots taken from the corners of rooms). One location that really did not work for me was Scrooge’s home. Instead of the lavish, luxurious, and expensive mansion we’re accustomed to, his present day apartment (yes, apartment!) is the exact same apartment that young Scrooge & Bill shared. It’s even decorated almost the same way. If this was intentional on the writers part, I question its efficiency because it feels instead like they realized they couldn’t afford another set location and used the same one twice to save money. This unfortunately affects a couple of the categories on my rating scale, bringing the overall score for “Scrooge & Marley” even lower.
Lastly, there is some rather bad acting in this film. Certain actors come across as more of an archetype rather than real-life people, and there is a lot of inconsistency in the quality and sincerity of the acting. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, especially when you actor in that this is not a big budget, major studio film. Yet it’s obvious enough to be noticeable and that alone can’t quite warrant the full star for this category.
In short, “Scrooge & Marley” is a nice addition to the Queer Christmas genre, and it generally is an enjoyable film to watch! But its weak points will also prevent it from becoming a true holiday staple. Definitely add it to your Watch List and embrace this queer twist on the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge.