Projections - Movie Reviews

The Singing Detective

The Singing Detective

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Mel Gibson,
Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody

Robert Downey Jr. Headlines a fine cast in Keith Gordon's The Singing Detective, adapted from the 1986 BBC TV series written by Dennis Potter and directed by Jon Amiel. This ambitious effort leapfrogs from genres as Downey's layered portrayal of Dan Dark, a pulp detective fiction novelist, doesn't balance its depictions of reality and fantasy with the gracefulness that was present on the small-screen.

This weird conflagration, a dramedy unfolds like a musical film-noir. Dark's pizza like psoriasis, a debilitating skin condition, with rashes and legions, has him hospitalized. During his stay he hallucinates a melange of things from his life, childhood memories and the story of his first novel, The Singing Detective.

Downey's passionate pursuit into the deep recesses of Dark has black humor, wistfulness, anger, misogyny, and many other emotions. One part of his role has him in full body makeup. In his subconscious, he becomes hip private eye Dan Dark who moonlights as a nightclub singer while investigating a prostitute's death.

The Freudian implications of his febrile state imagines the victim has him under the watchful eye of an enigmatic psychologist, Mel Gibson in a bald cap and thick glasses. Dark slowly accedes to his physician's recommendation to open up. Some of the best scenes are the sessions with a good rapport between Downey and an unfettered Gibson. An understanding of Dan's damaged psyche comes from his promiscuous mother (Carla Gugino, now on TV's "Karen Sisco). Who is in an affair with her spouses's business associate (Jeremy Northam). So his attitude towards life and women is pretty rotten.

A new treatment helps attack the severe case of psoriasis, but The Singing Detective is loaded with Dark's paranoia as he believes his distant wife (Robin Wright Penn) is cheating on him with a man that is identical to that of his old business partner. Also is imagines the hoods from his detective story are lurking in the hospital.

Finally, all the wild hallucinations build to a quirky emotional climax that is convoluted, but entertaining. Katie Holmes has a notable part as a nurse for Dark trying to relieve his discomfort, but how Gordon juxtaposes the manic fluxes in and out of Dark's head too often strains credibility and scars a versatile effort by Downey.

The Singing Detective

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