Friends for ten years, a group of twenty-somethings head for the ski slopes as guests of Ian's father. (Ian and dad are estranged because dad worked too many hours when Ian was a lad.) Dad ... See full summary »
Peter Soffel is the stuffy warden of a remote American prison around the turn of the century. His wife, Kate, finds herself attracted to prisoner Ed Biddle. She abandons her husband and ... See full summary »
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Robert Downey Jr.,
Natasha Gregson Wagner
"While hospitalized with an extreme case of psoriasis, novelist Dan Dark reworks his first book in his head. Feverish, paranoid and prone to musical outbreaks, he confuses himself with his protagonist, a detective investigating the murder of a prostitute in 1950s Los Angeles." Written by
Great Cast and Direction Drive Compelling Update of Dennis Potter's Classic
The 2003 film version of THE SINGING DETECTIVE is by turns funny, scathing, and poignant, a woefully underrated look into a writer's psyche. If you don't have time to watch Dennis Potter's landmark TV miniseries (also available on home video), Potter's screenplay for this movie version (written 2 years before his untimely death) does a great job of condensing the story of novelist Dan Dark's (Robert Downey Jr.) battle with severe chronic psoriasis and personal demons. Throughout the movie, the bitter, suffering Dark weaves in and out of reality and delirious re-imaginings of the people and events in his life as they'd appear in the titular novel starring Dark's tough private eye alter ego. Actor-turned-director Keith Gordon stages this wild ride through Dark's mind with a style that owes as much to David Lynch and the Coen Brothers as it does to Potter. The British miniseries' lip-synched 1940s musical set pieces are retooled as American 1950s rock 'n' roll numbers -- call me a Philistine, but I think the updating works even better than the original (and believe me, I loved the original)! As a writer, I found THE SINGING DETECTIVE to be a fine example of how one's life and experiences creep into one's writing no matter what genre you write in. Each and every member of the stellar cast is letter-perfect, with particularly good, sharp chemistry between Downey and, respectively, Robin Wright Penn (I've always loved her name; it's especially appropriate for someone playing a writer's wife :-), and producer Mel Gibson (as Dark's seemingly goofy but astute and compassionate therapist, Gibson is all but unrecognizable in bald drag; Greg Cannom's F/X makeup serves both Gibson and Downey well). It's a shame THE SINGING DETECTIVE didn't do better with critics or at the box office, or Downey probably would've been a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. I could empathize with Downey as the bitter, clever, pain-racked (physically and emotionally) Dan Dark even when he wasn't acting particularly likable. The versatile Downey could be a Bogart for the Aughties if he could keep his own personal demons under control. I also enjoyed seeing our household fave Adrien Brody in a relatively lighthearted (for this film :-) role as one of a pair of Dark's fictional hoods with a bumbling streak. Jon Polito completes the pair; he and Brody are like an amoral Abbott & Costello. Their repartee cracked me up, especially their "Patti Page" exchange early in the film. Give this new SINGING DETECTIVE a try next time you're in the video store and in the mood for something different. If you rent the DVD and like it, watch it again with Keith Gordon's commentary track on; he has lots of intriguing and entertaining things to say about the making of the film, particularly about the cast and how he and his crew got those great surreal effects on a low budget.
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