Phillip Duggan (sparhawk2k) wrote in celluloidraving,
Phillip Duggan

The Singing Detective (2003) ... 8.5/10


As I get ready to go pay fanboy tribute to Kevin Smith tomorrow, this was in many ways a very fitting film to watch tonight. Both are sitting with a dismal collection of reviews ( and while Jersey Girl has a chance to climb quite a bit on its official release tomorrow, I'm not too confident that is actually going to happen. But in the end that isn't going to change Kevin Smith. And I see a lot of that same internal motivation in The Singing Detective. I probably could find hundreds of things that, if they have been in something like Pirates of the Caribbean, I would have torn to shreds. But here they worked... And not worked, as in they all came together to a coherent whole that made sense and projected a clear meaning. Something I do tend to like to see... I don't think this film ever really did that. But I think it did stay true to itself from beginning to end.

I can't even begin to really formulate the genre. The Internet Movie Database lists Comedy, Musical, Mystery, and Drama... And in many ways it does contain elements of all of these. But it never really stuck to any of them. The drama had a tendency to be funny; the comedy had a tendency to be dramatic; and the musical numbers? Well, in most cases those were just completely random if not down right disturbing. But then, what else do you expect from a story driven by a bitter, sarcastic man, watching time tick by on his hospital bed? What else would a man hiding from his problems and the world in his own detective stories see? In many ways that is what made this film so interesting... It bounced around like mad, seeming to truly be mad at times, but what else could it do. It definitely seemed to suffer from the compression of a long mini-series into a film but that was to be expected and I think in the end it did the best with what was available. I wish I'd had a chance to see the original BBC mini-series because I think it would shed a lot of light on this film. Both were written by Dennis Potter and as I understand it both are at least a bit autobiographical. It seems he had his own skin condition similar to that of Dan Dark. This is part of what makes many elements of the film so much more credible and hard to criticize... Especially if he really did see people in his life break into their own versions of "At the Hop." For those of you who know me, that might not be too far from my own reaction...

Either way, while confusing at times, and certainly very strange, this was a very enjoyable film to watch. You had to make concessions at times but then, you usually do, especially once you start getting picky enough to be writing reviews. The acting was fun throughout and it was a treat to see such a terrific cast in such an interesting array of roles. I adore Robert Downey Jr and am probably a bit biased towards anything he does but I also had a lot of fun seeing Mel Gibson and Adrien Brody. And Katie Holmes for that matter, in a rather strange and amusing small role... To sum it up, it’s something I’m definitely going to see again, but you also need to go into it prepared. You’ve been warned.
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