Wednesday, December 30, 2009

oh, sherlock

You may recall that I was excited about the new Sherlock Holmes, made by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey, Jr.  I'm a big RDJ fan, and have been ever since seeing Chaplin in a theatre class in high school.  Still, some of my friends scoffed at my excitement.  It's not terribly surprising, considering that the Sherlock Holmes we have all come to know and rely on is a character somewhat removed from Arthur Conan Doyle's original.  This review (sent to me by Adam), sums it up best, I think.
"The Holmes we have become used to from later interpretations is sort of Holmes-as-Vulcan, the Mr. Spock of the gaslight era; cool, cerebral, controlled, a bit disdainful. Forgotten in the Holmes-as-Vulcan version is that the original Holmes was an eccentric drug addict who went to pieces in the absence of a degree of mental stimulation ordinary life could not afford him. Also forgotten is that he was written as a man of tremendous physical energy, a boxer and martial artist who relished describing his victory in a brawl (The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist)."

I would bet serious money that Robert Downey Jr. read the entire canon, or at least most of it, in preparing for this role. I would bet more serious money that Ritchie gave him wide interpretive latitude and that some of the best lines in the film were ad-libbed from deep within character. Because Downey’s performance is right. It is truthful to the original in a way that the Holmes-as-Vulcan version could not be.

I've seen the movie twice now, and I heartily agree.  In fact, there's not much of anything I don't like about the film.  Mark Strong is his villainous best, Jude Law is the perfect Watson (and this from someone who's not usually a fan), I even loved Rachel McAdams, despite having been prepared to be underwhelmed by her part (although I would have liked to see more of her).  Kelly Reilly, who you may be familiar with if you've watched Pride and Prejudice as many times as I have (she's Caroline Bingley) as Watson's fiancee hits every note right in every scene she inhabits.

This is a movie that I actually miss when I'm away from it.  The review criticizes the "sepia-and-grime thing," but I think that's a big part of why it works.  It feels real, and Victorian.  I want more of it, of Irene Adler, of Mary, of Watson, and especially of Holmes.  Goodness gracious, I hope there's a sequel!

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