Friday, September 18, 2015

Mr. Holmes: Literate, Involving, and Slight

     We wanted to see Mr. Holmes about seven weeks ago when it first opened, but didn’t go.  Finally, we went a week ago and enjoyed it.  We then went out with friends who had, unbeknownst to us, gone to the same showing; that was more fun than the movie.  Middle-class, middle-aged and older viewers will like it in the same way they might enjoy a series on Masterpiece Theatre that they don’t feel they have to see weekly.

Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes
     Sherlock Holmes is ninety-three in 1947, living in Sussex, and afraid that he’s losing his mind.  Although Holmes displays remarkable spryness, I sat wondering if he was going to die.  It’s sort of a suspenseful snuff movie where I hoped he wouldn’t croak.  On the other hand, he’s ninety-three and lived a remarkable life and there are people to look after him, etc., etc., so I don’t know why I was supposed to feel sorry for him, but Bill Condon directed for maximum ‘let him be immortal’ appeal.  Close to the very end, there’s a shot where Mr. Holmes lays spread-eagled face down and I couldn’t tell if it was a visual allegory for martyrdom or death or just weirdly blocked.

McKellen with Laura Linney
     Director Bill Condon collaborated very successfully with Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1998), which was about the final days in the life of English horror film director James Whale.  It also featured a friendship with a younger man, played by Brendan Fraser.  A major focus of Mr. Holmes is on the grandfatherly relationship he develops with his housekeeper’s son.  Laura Linney, usually luminous, plays the worried drudge Mrs, Munro and has a subtle, authentic accent.  Milo Parker plays her son with intelligence, focus, and complex emotions.  It’s an excellent performance.  Ian McKellen does very well (why wouldn’t he?), but it’s not much of a stretch for him.  He’s far more entertaining and original on Vicious (PBS on Sunday nights).  I became drowsy and missed Frances de la Tour, who’s wonderful on Vicious as the sexually ravenous best friend.

Milo Parker with Mentor McKellen
     Jeffrey Hatcher wrote a literate, elegant screenplay based upon a novel in which Sherlock Holmes recalls his final, failed case.  The English countryside looks lovely.  The sojourn to Hiroshima makes little sense (as Neil said, “Should someone that old be traveling overseas to a place with so much radiation?”) and the settings looked like they were meant for an impressionistic theatrical production.  Audiences obviously are enjoying the movie, but I wonder about the reasons for the six-year-old current obsession with Sherlock Holmes.

No comments: