Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ian McKellan as Holmes

Summer TV is so awful. I used to care about the TCA press tour and follow all the news announcements, but now I'm not interested in each network trying to shill and create buzz for their shows. Not many of the pilots excited me, and I'm waiting on midseason for anything creative and different.

So I went to see the Mr. Holmes movie after all. I read the book years ago and hated it, so I wasn't planning to see this adaptation. However, I read a review from someone else who did read the book, and they told me that things had been changed, which explained why the filmmakers made the title change; it's not exactly faithful. So I went to see it, since it came to a movie theatre that was convenient to me. It was an okay movie, if you like retired, beekeeping Holmes. I personally don't enjoy Holmes as a hermit without Watson. Audiences seem to connect to it, though, with Holmes struggling through his senility and connecting with the boy Roger. The movie is doing relatively well for its small release.

I hated the book for some annoying writing conventions that the author insisted on foisting upon readers. He would start a flashback scene, show half of it, stop it to digress to another plot, then return to the exact same scene a long time later, repeating pages upon pages of stuff I ALREADY READ and DIDN'T NEED REMINDING OF, then finally show me the other half of the flashback. However, that was a lie; there's actually a third or fourth part of the scene which he has withheld from us, and will return us to later, while unnecessarily REPEATING EVERYTHING ELSE AGAIN! Fuck him and his editor who let that get published that way. Thankfully, the movie doesn't try to visually replicate that insane repetition, so that's was a relief. The characters had funny moments, and the ending was much improved, so those problems were fixed too.

Also, there's a scene where Holmes attends a fictional movie based on one of his cases, and Nicholas Rowe plays the fictional Holmes in that film. It's not that Hollywood rewrote the case, though; Watson was responsible for the inaccuracy because he deliberately changed the mystery to make Holmes into a hero instead of a failure. To save his reputation (and to hell with what the real client thought?) and perhaps help Holmes get over the tragedy. One of the themes of the movie is that people tell well meaning lies to protect other people and soothe their pain. It's interesting for me to see that Watson lies so much in the movie, almost constructing a false Holmes persona like in Without a Clue. I have often asserted that Watson lies in the stories myself.


From what I remember in the book, Holmes was more infatuated by the woman in his case; he was stumbling over himself for words and was not able to smoothly charm her or lie because he had no experience with how to sincerely conduct romance. (But maybe my memory's fuzzy on that point.) The movie made Holmes more rational and able to deceive (like he did with Milverton's housemaid Agatha in the canon). He pretended to be psychic and tried to give the woman a warning, only to offend her. I still hated the moment when the woman returns to the bench to talk to Holmes and out of nowhere wants to run away with him. It never, ever convinces me; it's a total non sequitur, along with her thinking that surely a detective would "understand" her situation. Understand what? Why? How? I understand that she's grieving and frustrated with her deluded husband. But I don't get on what basis she guesses that Holmes is more likely to follow her planted clues and sympathize with her enough to let her continue her suicide. What in Watson's stories, or in Holmes's behavior, showed that he could connect to a woman? Holmes had a reputation for misogyny and saying that women were inexplicable; so what the hell is this woman talking about?

Even if she somehow convinced herself that Holmes would be a friendly ear to her depression, how does she make the leap to proposing that they be together in their loneliness? After 15 minutes talk, why on earth would she think running off with a stranger, who is decades older than her, would suddenly make her happy or heal her grief over her miscarriages? What the fuck is wrong with this author who thinks that's how a woman actually thinks? What the fuck is with the movie writers who thinks this mysterious leap makes sense too? And then Holmes rejects her, so she kills herself. What a morbid, overwrought melodrama. So yeah, I still did not wholly enjoy the movie's plot. It's relatively better than the book, but it's not that great. I'd rather have another Guy Ritchie Holmes movie, actually. I had to settle for Jude Law doing a James Bond impression in Spy.

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