“Mr. Holmes” review: New film shows Sherlock Holmes in his later years

17 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

“Mr. Holmes” review: New film shows Sherlock Holmes in his later years.

After hitting a couple of commercial highs (“Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) and one major artistic low (“The Fifth Estate”) in the major-studio trade, Bill Condon makes a welcome return to more intimate, character-based fare in “Mr. Robert Downey Jr. has made him a skull-cracking action hero on the big screen and Benedict Cumberbatch has made him a high-functioning sociopath on TV. Holmes,” an elegiac portrait of the once-great detective as a senescent old man — arthritic of body and foggy of mind, yet unwilling to go gently into that good night. Holmes” arrives, and it is director Bill Condon’s best film since “Gods and Monsters,” another character study featuring a marvelous lead performance by the great English actor Ian McKellen. Watson and even of his memories, the strength of Arthur Conan Doyle’s supremely rational creation is that he is still always recognizably Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes” so intriguing — in addition to a terrific performance by Ian McKellen as the title character — is seeing him facing his own personal Kryptonite. A graceful film that seems happy to proceed at roughly the pace of the honey that drips from its central character’s apiary, this faithful adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind” may disappoint audiences seeking a ripping good Sherlock Holmes mystery but should delight genre buffs fond of such earlier revisionist Holmes yarns as “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” and “Young Sherlock Holmes,” and even attract some younger viewers curious to see the old guy from “Lord of the Rings” and “X-Men” (a.k.a. In the present-day London of BBC’s Sherlock, he is a twitchy, verbose savant with poor social skills; in the New York of CBS’s Elementary, he is a brownstone-dwelling, tattooed hipster fresh out of rehab; and in the postwar Sussex of Mr. Old, alone, liver-spotted and suffering from the onset of senility, Holmes holes up in a house in Kent with cranky, middle-aged Welsh housekeeper Mrs.

If Condon’s casting seems particularly good here, it’s because in its theme of faded celebrity and its central dynamic of an eminence grise, a young protege and a stern housekeeper, “Mr. Holmes” carries more than a faint echo of “Gods and Monsters,” the director’s 1998 Oscar winner about the last days of “Frankenstein” director James Whale (also played by McKellen). In a lush opening scene set on a lumbering train, Holmes, a steampunk Prospero, corrects a boy’s mother when she misidentifies a wasp as a bee. “Different thing entirely,” huffs a scowling Holmes, who is an avid beekeeper in his retirement from battling criminals. Real or not, though, Holmes is one of the earliest celebrities of modern culture, one who interrogates the nature of art, authorship, reliable narration and public persona – and blithely critiques them all, eventually from both sides of the fourth wall. That makes his world uniquely suited to the literary spinoff, the non-canonical fanfic and liberal adaptation, over many generations and elastic according to audience, genre and taste.

Holmes,” adapted by screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, is ultimately a softer, sunnier film, it shares with its predecessor an acute sense of a dying man struggling to delineate fact from fantasy. Based on a 2005 novel by American Mitch Cullin and adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (“The Duchess”), the film wraps the story of Holmes’ increasingly close and paternal relationship with Roger, whom the master detective would like to see educated, around some folderol concerning a trip by Holmes to post-World War II Japan, where the scars of Hiroshima are still fresh, to secure prickly ash, a possible senility antidote, and a mystery involving the diplomat son of Holmes’ Japanese tour guide and fellow botanist (Hiroyuki Sanada). During the sixties youthquake, for example, a cross-over concept with the historical Jack the Ripper case in A Study in Terror (1965) enabled a more graphic Holmes universe.

Watson, whose largely unreal stories, he said, have “made me into a fiction.” We learn that he never occupied 221B Baker St. (a myth “to mislead the curious”), disdains the famous deerstalker cap and didn’t own a curved pipe. (He smokes cigars). “If I ever write a story myself,” McKellen’s true Sherlock complains, “it will be to correct millions of misconceptions created by his imaginative license.” Near the end of his life, Holmes lives far from London in a rustic home on the cliffs above the English Channel. The filmmaking itself is among Condon’s most elegant, with fine period detailing from production designer Martin Childs and costume designer Keith Madden. The movie eschews the earnestness and decorum of mid-century adaptations (think Basil Rathbone’s debonair wartime Nazi hunter) and restores some of the seedy elements in the original stories – though with a leering camera that plays up the slasher sexploitation angle of popular horror films. The same is true about flashbacks in which we meet a German medium (Frances de la Tour) and a distraught English wife (a very good Hattie Morahan), who is trying to contact the spirit world. He is, unsurprisingly, wonderful in the role, but the movie doesn’t truly have the sense of mystery we’re used to in a film about Sherlock Holmes.

Munro (Laura Linney), and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker). “Crusty” is about the best way to describe his demeanor, though Roger tends to thaw him out a bit. But McKellen’s Holmes, who writes names on his cuffs and whose study is his “sanctum sanctorum,” aka his brain, strikes striking poses indeed, trying to maintain his reason and dignity, while dueling with Mrs. In his senility, he becomes his own unreliable narrator, with McKellen’s sharp physicality going from stately to stooped and back again in flashbacks between 1914 and 1947.

As the fading detective trying to reconcile clinical logic with emotional intelligence, McKellen’s performance is a master class in nuance that elevates the overly sentimental material. Roger, who is also an avid reader and eager to learn, not only helps with the apiary, along with Holmes, but also tries to grasp Holmes’ legendary powers of deduction, which delight him.

After a trip to Japan in the wake of the nuclear bombs of World War II, he now hopes only to care for his bees, sharpen his focus, which has decayed over time, and try to live with his regrets. Elements allude to tensions between fiction and reality, imagination and fact, and possibly the act of creating art, but they’re merely a hackneyed pretext for an Easter egg of an allegory, as the nonagenarian investigates a murderous swarm of honeybees. Holmes” recalls an earlier film about the downward spiral of memory loss, the Oscar-winning “Still Alice.” The aging Holmes, no longer so skillful at solving puzzles, works to re-evaluate secrets within his own life and his place in the world. Another Wilder – Gene – no doubt influenced by the prevailing popularity of the Mel Brooks school of spoof, soon took self-reference further into the absurd and created a third sibling, Sigerson, for 1970’s The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a misnomer farce with fart jokes.

He does all this, and relives his final case in flashback, despite telling Roger that “fiction is worthless.” Roger, you see, is his biggest fan, and the two develop a special bond that also drives a wedge between the boy and his mother. Holmes recalls shadowing Ann, interviewing her and learning the truth, but he’s troubled by the story decades afterward. “I must have done something terribly wrong,” he frowns, studying his memory-lapsed diary and imagining himself back on the case. The mystery is as much about what happened that forced the famous detective to hang up his deerstalker as it is Holmes forcing himself to remember everything he doesn’t want to. Holmesiana careened and veered so much that it inevitably had to be set straight again, with Jeremy Brett’s 42-adaptation television run in the eighties.

Unlike, say, the Marvel cinematic universe, Holmes became an almost open-source model of self-enhancing cultural material early on, and is constantly reinventing itself according to its time. The solutions aren’t particularly satisfying, though a scene in which Holmes briefly meets Kelmot is a showcase for both McKellen and Morahan, a tightly controlled bit of who-knows-what-about-whom that allows both actors to shine. With flocked wallpaper amped up to camp, blackmailers are updated to privacy thieves and nefarious media barons in BBC’s Sherlock, the apotheosis of arch. Of course, shining is nothing new for McKellen, a brilliant actor, and it’s interesting to see how he and Condon portray Holmes’ faculties at different times. In the Wilder, the detective remonstrates Watson for the literary embellishments, for romanticizing simple exercises in logic. “And you’ve saddled me with this ridiculous costume.” “Blame it on the illustrator,” Watson counters.

McKellen also delivers the role’s humor with a sly wink to the audience, grumbling after he tumbles out of bed and cuts himself: “I look like I’ve been attacked by the hound of the Baskervilles.” I can’t remember another time when a faltering character has been played with such complete authority. That’s an explicit nod to how the author himself was open to dramatic licence – Strand Magazine illustrator Sidney Paget gave Holmes the indelible deerstalker hat and Inverness cape-coat that didn’t exist in the text, popular turn-of-the-century stage adaptations by American actor William Gillette followed in which he donned embroidered dressing gowns onstage and infused the down-at-the-heels character with a louche glamour that has endured (most vividly in Rupert Everett’s droll, dandy version of Holmes as a cross between Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde). What is actually happening over the course of the movie isn’t as interesting as watching McKellen inhabit this character, so it’s good news that he appears in virtually every single scene. And “Elementary, my dear Watson” is a catchphrase that did not initially come from Conan Doyle but was cemented after he put down the pen and Holmes adaptations began circulating more widely for the first time in 1929, via the first Sherlock sound film.

Again, Wilder dared that first, with Holmes played by the prissy, sardonic Robert Stephens, a rather obnoxious character who stands both inside and at the edge of the construct of the world he inhabits to wink at the audience. If the otherwise dynamic, at times dizzyingly clever Sherlock bromance contains jokes that some fans contend are homophobic, Elementary is a more prosaic procedural that’s subversive in other ways. And while no one would accuse Conan Doyle or Holmes of feminism, in the third-wave era of Elementary, Watson is recast as a woman, one who is his equal (Lucy Liu), as is Holmes nemesis Moriarty – played by Natalie Dormer who (spoiler?) is an amalgam with Holmes’s notorious former lover Irene Adler. After all, twilight is also where we find the former detective in Michael Chabon’s novella The Final Solution, and in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, aged but still active.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Arthur & George (PBS, beginning Sept. 6), a tweedy British miniseries based on Julian Barnes’s 2005 novel about Conan Doyle’s involvement in a real-life exoneration case, explores the author’s ambivalence toward his literary creation. It is spring 1893, during Holmes’s great hiatus, and throughout their crime-solving American adventure Holmes questions whether it is possible that he even really exists.

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Finding the ‘Joy’ in Jennifer Lawrence

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Joy’ review: Jennifer Lawrence cleans up in enjoyable biopic.

Writer-director David O. Their latest collaboration — following in the footsteps of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle — is a biographical picture about the life and times of Joy Mangano.Jennifer Lawrence groans when she’s asked about singing the classic Nancy and Frank Sinatra duet Something Stupid with co-star Edgar Ramirez in her new film Joy. “David [O Russell, the movie’s director] texted me last night to ask if he could put it on the soundtrack and this is what I texted him back,” the actor says as she digs around for her mobile phone and reads out her response verbatim. “‘David, no!!!’ and it is three exclamation marks.In a very abbreviated nutshell, that actually happened to Joy Mangano, 59, the fabulously successful Long Island entrepreneur/inventor and HSN pitchwoman whose rags-to-riches journey started with the invention of a mop.

Russell has made three kinds of movies: offbeat romances (“Flirting With Disaster”), surreal comedies (“I Heart Huckabees”) and dramas about dysfunctional yet appealing families (“The Fighter”). In real life, Mangano is the Long Island housewife and inventor who became famous and eventually rich after bouts of near-bankruptcy, by creating and marketing her Miracle Mop. Out Boxing Day in Australia, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence in the fictionalised life story of Joy Mangano, a single mum from Long Island who made her fortune selling a mop. On Christmas Day, “Joy,” a movie inspired by her struggles as a divorced, single mother turned mogul by way of that mop, will open at movie theaters across America.

This was before she hooked up with the giant Home Shopping Network, becoming their most effective pitch person and eventually selling her parent company, Ingenious Designs, to HSN. Gross, I can’t listen to it; I have to go to bed.’ And I said yes, but it’s a groaning, reluctant yes.” It’s the kind of unfiltered moment you come to expect when interviewing Lawrence, who may now be one of the most famous actors on the planet but still blurts out whatever she’s thinking with such self-deprecating charm it’s impossible not to be, well, charmed.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Miracle Mop inventor and QVC pitchwoman Joy Mangano glues the movie together, but it threatens to unravel at any time. Lawrence, 25, looks genuinely surprised when complimented about how unchanged she seems from our earlier interviews before the fame and Oscars. “But there would be no reason to change,” she says with a shrug. “I just have a job and I love my job. In the film, Lawrence’s Mangano is a colourful character, a single mom with a unique relationship and friendship with her ex-husband, and an enterprising woman who parlays her creativity into an incredibly successful business.

Mom (Virginia Madsen) stays in her bedroom and watches soap operas, until she falls for a Haitian plumber (Jimmy Jean-Louis) who fixes a hole in her bedroom floor. She landed minor roles on TV shows such as Monk, Cold Case and Medium before her 2010 indie film Winter’s Bone led to her becoming the second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. This is true even when the film tilts off its rocker with a bit of Russell-esque madness built into the screenplay, and with the director failing to always keep the energy going. That resulted in not only a string of critically acclaimed films, an Academy Award and another Oscar nomination, but also her very own mega-franchise as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Joy’s grandma (endearing Diane Ladd) delivers messages of empowerment and smooths over constant fights, but she’s opposed by the money-grubbing rich woman (Isabella Rossellini) who dates Joy’s dad and sends negative messages about her. Lawrence’s endearing habit of speaking her mind resulted in a controversial essay she penned on Lena Dunham’s website about her discovery during the Sony hacks that she was being paid less “than the lucky people with dicks” on her recent films, including American Hustle. “I completely understand when people say actors shouldn’t talk about politics and things they don’t know about, but this was my gender at stake and it was being threatened with unfairness and I thought, ‘What is the point of having this voice if it’s not to speak out for myself and for everyone else who can’t?’,” she says unapologetically.

Upon learning that Lawrence would be playing her mom, Miranne says, “I braced myself so I wouldn’t fall on the floor.” As for Mangano, she says Lawrence playing her “made me feel old, number one. Lawrence hangs out with a posse of celebrity girlfriends, including Amy Schumer and singer Adele, but the reason is simple. “The friendship gets expedited a lot when you meet someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt has no agenda,” she says. Draining her savings and taking out loans, she started off small, selling her mops to local boat owners. “She persuaded QVC to take a thousand, but sales were poor and they tried to send them back,” says Mason. “She suggested letting her demonstrate it herself, and the channel agreed.” Sales skyrocketed and Mangano’s career as a QVC pitch woman was launched. That’s so amazing there aren’t even words.” Mangano and her three children didn’t view “Joy” until the Dec. 13 premiere in Manhattan, though a family outing to see “Trainwreck” included a trailer.

This is, after all, the self-confessed reality-show junkie who confessed in a recent Vogue interview that on the night of her 25th birthday party, friends surprised her with a visit from reality queen Kris Jenner, who presented her with a cake inscribed, ‘Happy Birthday, you piece of shit!’ The only time she seems tongue-tied is when asked about her relationship status, after a four-year stint with X-Men: First Class co-star Nicholas Hoult and a year with Coldplay singer Chris Martin before their breakup earlier this year. “Next!” Lawrence says in a no-nonsense voice, pausing as she decides if she’ll continue that thought. For one thing, Mangano’s childhood is not that interesting for a film, despite some flashbacks to her as a youngster (when she is played by 10-year-old Isabella Cramp, who does actually look like we imagine Lawrence could have at the same age). A satire on the acquisitiveness of the public? (Here, QVC foists unnecessary things on gullible viewers who could better save their money.) Russell doesn’t seem to know. And, of course, the grave ending would be a lie: Mangano is very much alive at the age of 59, still inventing, still pitching products, still a superstar of the American home shopping universe. There’s the Clothes It All luggage system, essentially a rolling suitcase with a removable garment bag, and the Super Chic vacuum, which releases fragrance into the air.

If I even casually say something to a reporter, that quote haunts me for the rest of my life,” she says, “so I am never, ever, ever talking about boys again!” I don’t think any of us brought enough tissues!” A good portion of the film was shot last winter in Boston, and though the always-busy Mangano was twice scheduled to visit the set, snowstorms made travel impossible. He has mixed genres successfully before, as in the anti-war comedy-drama “Three Kings,” but the blender often grinds to a halt in “Joy.” Just as we’re getting used to the realism of Mangano’s fight for respect, Russell photographs Rossellini as if she were a gargoyle.

One of her creations, the thin and velvet-covered Huggable Hanger, remains a bestseller for HSN, at more than 300 million sold, and was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Yet in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Cooper, De Niro and Russell all supported her with fine work; here they lay back and make the movie a one-ring circus where she has to be acrobat, bareback rider and clown.

He had a presence all of his own.” At one point, Miranne says, “Jennifer grabbed Joy’s hand and said to David, ‘Look at the nails, a French manicure.’ ” (That manicure is a Mangano signature.) Lawrence revealed that in studying for her part as Joy, she watched recordings of the inventor’s early pitches on HSN, including ones for “Huggable Hangers” and found her so compelling that she wanted to buy them on the spot. There is something special when creative people get together.” Mangano’s take on Lawrence? “She’s beyond her years, so brilliant, hysterical and so talented.

Critically, Russell’s sense of wonder and beauty turns elegiac moments — especially when Joy Mangano becomes fully realized as a woman and as a business executive — into scenes of great beauty. Lawrence recently said on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” that the movie was “half Joy Mangano’s story and half [Russell’s] imagination and other powerful, strong women who inspired him.” The director mined much of his Mangano material by phone.

The cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Lucci (in a mock TV soap opera that gives Joy some of its silliness) and even Melissa Rivers as her late mother Joan Rivers. There’s no situation Joy cannot overcome or circumvent.” At a Newsday photo shoot at Mangano’s luxurious but serene 42,000-square-foot mansion on 11 acres in St. As for parting advice for the ambitious? “If this movie inspires even just one more person to believe in themselves and to go after their dreams, then it’s made a very special impact in this world.

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