The Singing Detective (2003)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   B.5

USA, 2003.  Icon Productions, Haft Entertainment, Airborne Productions.  Screenplay by , based on his television series.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Patricia Norris.  Film Editing by .  

Dennis Potter’s immensely popular British television series finds its way to the Hollywood silver screen with tragically weak results.  couldn’t be better in the lead role, a modern writer with psoriasis so bad it has crippled him in a hospital bed (the makeup effects on Downey’s skin are unappealingly believable and makeup designer Greg Cannom should be commended). While reflecting on everything that makes him angry about his life, mostly the women who have disappointed him, he indulges in flashbacks from his fifties-style detective novel and recalls memories from his troubled childhood. In examining both these elements, he soon begins to realize that his skin condition might be related to his bitterness about his past and current relationship with his wife (). The detective scenes star him as a private eye who is on a confusingly unexplained case in between frequent opportunities to burst out into song. The memory flashbacks are much better, dealing with his leaving home with his mother () after she cheats on her husband with his business partner () and moves them to the big city of Los Angeles. Most of the roles are throwaway cameos, but the cast has fun playing up their various caricatures and, especially in the detective scenes, playing up the fun cliches of film noir conventions. The film itself never manages to enjoy indulging in its own fun, and no matter how irresistibly charismatic Downey is, the screenplay is just too messy and Keith Gordon’s direction too unsure and ragged to keep your attention. The detective scenes don’t make much sense in any kind of context with the piece as a whole, while the only truly enjoyment to be had comes from Downey’s scenes with a hilarious playing an eggheaded, bald psychiatrist with telescopic eyeglasses and a fuddy-duddy personality (Gibson also served as co-producer).

Toronto International Film Festival:  2003


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