Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ian McKellen is MR. HOLMES

I've had a man-crush on Ian McKellen for years.  I admit it.  Sitting through MR. HOLMES didn't feel like an assignment at all.  It was a pleasure. Don't expect this to do the big box office business that Jurassic World, Disney/Pixar's Inside Out, and Minions have done.  Do expect to be fascinated by Sir Ian's performance as old Sherlock Holmes.
This Sherlock Holmes is not the traditional one seen in films for decades.  He doesn't suit up like Basil Rathbone did as Holmes in a series of popular 1930s and 40s movies.
He's dapper but dresses in a different way, as he will explain.  He'll also switch up his famous Baker Street address on you.  Sir Ian plays two Sherlocks.  We see him when he was a crime-solving superstar and still in demand.  Then we see him as he is now, old and infirm in England right after World War II.  One case baffled Holmes and caused him to step into retirement.  The progression of age has jabbed at his most prized weapon -- his mind, his memory.  A dear friend during this period of life is his housekeeper's little boy.  Her son seems to have a gift for deduction like Mr. Holmes did.  He keeps the old gentleman's mind engaged.  Sherlock's body may have withered but his spirit didn't.
The boy's housekeeper mother, played by Laura Linney, is uneasy around Holmes.

Mrs. Munro is an agitated working class woman.  A widowed mother who survived the war.  Holmes is a challenge to her.  He's 93 and still quite the intimidating upscale man.
Conversation with young Roger prompts the feeble Holmes to look back on the unsolved case that made him retire.  When we look back to his middle age, he's fit and formidable.  There will be surprises and new discoveries for this lion in winter.  Memory is at play in this film as are love and loss through the years.  Holmes even gets to see himself portrayed on film.  Also, we also see how the connection of one generation to the other -- the friendship and communication -- has its own restorative power, in a way.  Holmes' care for Roger and their mutual respect is a lovely thing to see. And vital.  Last month, Sir Ian was a Grand Marshal of New York City's Gay Pride Parade.  He came out in his latter years.  He's also has great popularity with young moviegoers thanks to his roles in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings and the X-Men action/adventure movie franchises.  When he came out, he connected to, inspired and helped members of the younger generation.
He's shown the positive power that can come about when generations connect and communicate instead of one ignoring the other simple because of age.  Handsome Sir Ian looks fabulous in his mid-70s and co-star Laura Linney hit 50 looking quite lovely.
Mr. Holmes was directed by Bill Condon, the man who directed Laura Linney to an Oscar nomination for Kinsey (2004) and Sir Ian to an Oscar nomination for Gods and Monsters (2008).  In that, McKellen played movie director James Whale.  He was a Hollywood outsider.  He was a Brit and he was openly gay when hardly anyone in the Hollywood industry was openly gay.  He gave us great and groundbreaking films about outsiders in the 1930s -- Frankenstein, the sequel Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and the first full-length adaptation of the revolutionary Broadway musical drama, Show Boat.  Race, the relations between black and white people, was in its showbiz storyline  Like Gods and Monsters, we meet a talented man in the last years of his remarkable life in Mr. Holmes.  Laura Linney is American, not British.  But she plays an Englishwoman in the film which was shot in Great Britain.  I'm sure Condon could've found a British actress to play Mrs. Munro.  However, Linney is very good and...well, considering how many Brits now play Americans on our TV and in the movies, her casting is fair play in my book.

Again, Sir Ian is fascinating to watch as Mr. Holmes.  Excellent work in a stylish, entertaining film that show us a different Sherlock Holmes.  It's really the kind of production we'd see as a special PBS presentation.  But with animated features and comic book hero action movies dominating the cineplexes, the mature Mr. Holmes is a nice change of pace for big screens.

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