Sherlock: Brett and Everett

I recently watched Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes in The Case of the Silk Stocking. I enjoy Everett in general and, on paper, you'd think he'd make a perfect Holmes. He is almost too handsome, but he has the classic Holmes' profile. He is tall, saturnine. He exudes an off-kilter vibe.

As Holmes on the screen, however, he is all wrong. He comes across as bored aristocrat, a la his role in The Ideal Husband. He is too genial on the one hand, too off-hand on the other. At one point, he comes into Watson's apartment and sprawls on a sofa opposite Watson's fiance. As he exchanges witty conversation with her, he does not come across, even vaguely, as a highly critical and intense misogynist. Most disappointing, he doesn't even come across as particularly brilliant.

I think it is a misuse of Everett. As a detective aristocrat, he would be perfect. He is far more Wimsey than Holmes.

To be fair, I am comparing Everett to Jeremy Brett. I consider Granada's Sherlock Holmes series to be the most brilliant on record with Brett as the standard bearer for all future Holmes. Brett not only has the perfect profile, his face has more roughness, more vulture-like qualities than Everett's. He is a coiled spring, a contained manic-depressive who leaps, at a moment, from low to high energy. He NEVER sprawls. He is private, self-contained with a brain that works 24/7. He is much more Monk than Wimsey. He is also intensely middleclass (this is important to the context: Watson and Holmes are gentlemen, but they are NOT aristocrats; they came out of a class that considered its middleclass status preferable to aristocracy; Queen Victoria had made middleclass conservatism cool).

I also love Granada's Watsons: David Burke and Edward Hardwicke. They play Watson as an intelligent professional man. His intelligence makes Holmes' brilliance more apparent. Neither of them are buffoons. And both of them, Hardwicke especially, have an immense kindliness of manner, displaying decent, gentleman-like behavior at every turn.

Finally, what is so wonderful about Granada's Holmes, produced by Michael Cox, is that it captures the feel/essence of the stories without being simply retellings. Brett's influence and the director's influence on the outcome is apparent. The stories are fleshed out with more details, more perspectives, more nuances--you feel that this is truly Holmes come to life. On the other hand, the series displays a great deal of respect for Arthur Conan Doyle and for the stories.

This is a huge contrast to the latest Miss Marple mysteries (2004) where the writers continually alter HUGE hunks of the original stories. I endured them for awhile, but eventually the producer(s)' contempt for Christie's craft got to me. They alter plot lines. They change Christie's characterizations. They even switch murderers! It never seems to occur to them that the reason people like Christie is because she tells a good story. She wasn't an intellectual writer, but she was a stunning craftswoman, and these would-be adapters aren't even half that good.

And I don't expect them to be. But when you are offered decent material, use it! In comparison, both Michael Cox and Brian Eastman (who does the Poirot movies) have exhibited a strong comprehension of the power and structure of the original stories as well as an ability to transform and visualize that comprehension.

Back to Everett--it didn't bother me that they made up a new story. Making up new stories about Holmes is a time-honored tradition. But their Holmes simply wasn't Holmes. Why not just make the film about some 1890s aristocrat who gets dragged into doing a bit of detecting? (Answer: they wanted to make money off the Holmes' name.)


1 comment:

Eugene said...

How about Sherlock Holmes as played by a fox?