Wed November 26, 2003
The Singing Detective
It's an offbeat film with style.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The 1984 "Singing Detective" miniseries had Michael Gambon as a misanthropic novelist confusing himself with his pulp-fiction noir detective. Although no one could approach Gambon's startling portrayal, no actor I see can match Robert Downey Jr.'s ability to bring back this character with his own demons to recreate hallucinations and '50's musicals in dreams lurid, colorful, and downright Freudian.
His debilitating skin and bone infection of extreme psoriasis that has landed him in the hospital but provides him with the opportunity to dream about his choleric mother and tramp wife as well as place the hospital staff in cheesy '50's musicals.
In Keith Gordon's "Singing Detective," Downey brings his own life of addictions, which have truncated his career and left him dangerous to hire. He seems at home here as Dan Dark, emerging into the light of sanity by exorcizing his demons and dealing with the unreality of seductive nurse Katie Holmes attending to his skin and bone in reality and dream only as a writer could envision.
It's an offbeat film with style, similar to Woody Allen's lyrical "Everyone Says I Love You" and Bjork's depressed "Dancer in the Dark." It's not quite as good as either but a charmer nonetheless.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm.