The new film Sherlock Holmes opened in the US on December 25th. After years of classic adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s cerebral sleuth and his side-kick Dr. Watson on Masterpiece Theater and on the big screen, the movie was not what I expected. In a nutshell, this Holmes bare-knuckle boxes like Tom Lefroy, forgets to bath and shave, and his cluttered flat at 221B Baker Street looks like a cross between the Old Curiosity Shop in the Dickens classic and Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory after an explosion.
Anyone who has not read Conan Doyle or seen any of the traditional adaptations might like this film. Visually it is stunning. Victorian London never looked so disparagingly seedy. However, the costume designer should know better than to put a lady in a shocking pink satin sharmuse gown in the middle of the day, but I was probably the only person in the state of Washington to notice this faux pas. Primarily the challenge lies in the original book vs. the Hollywoodization syndrome that we have also experienced with Jane Austen’s novels. Both have merit, but not in comparison.
Many of the performances were outstanding. Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson make an interesting if not odd pairing and James Fox in a cameo as Sir Thomas Rotheram added old school class in a sea of younger talent. The baddie of the film, Lord Blackwood, portrayed by Mark Strong steals the film. Austen movie buffs will remember that he played an angry Mr. Knightley to Kate Beckinsale’s pert Emma Woodhouse in the 1996 television adaption of Jane Austen’s novel Emma by Andrew Davies. His interpretation of Austen's character is quite unique showing a disapproving side of Mr. Knightley that bordered on bad tempered during the dressing down scene at Box Hill. One wonders out loud if he loved Emma less, would he have been able to talk about it more nicely? Doubtful. Who would have guessed that his surly Knightley was a foreshadowing of a future career as villains? Maybe Miss Woodhouse?
A classically trained actor, Strong has really come into his own lately playing villains. He was in the recently released The Young Victoria, and will be seen as Sir Godfrey next year in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood with Russell Crow and Mathew Macfadyen. It will be interesting to see what other baddies he chooses, and if we will ever see him as a romantic lead again. Hope so.
Read an interview of Mark Strong on his performance in Sherlock Holmes and his blossoming baddie career.
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose