Talking Movies

October 14, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XXXVIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The End of Elementary

Seven seasons have come and gone, and now Elementary is no more. I was unsure of it at the beginning. Did we really need another modern Sherlock Holmes when Sherlock was in its pomp? The casting of Lucy Liu, fresh from her terrific turn in Dirty Sexy Money, brought me to the show, where I was less sure of its casting of Jonny Lee Miller as a tattooed junkie Holmes than Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. But the fact that show-runner Robert Doherty had worked on the great Medium suggested this would be worth sticking with it. And so it was. And for all the initial misgivings this turned out in the long run to be the better of the duelling modern Sherlocks. When the shows went head to head in adapting Arthur Conan Doyle story elements it was Elementary that won time after time. The most egregious example being Doherty and his merry writers room outfoxing the entire third season arc of Sherlock concerning the Master Blackmailer in just 40 minutes. Sherlock long ago disappeared into an unwatchable sinkhole of self-regarding self-indulgence. Elementary by contrast went out verily banging a drum in the battle of wits at the highest stakes between Holmes & Watson and the villainous tech billionaire Odin Reichenbach.

June 30, 2019

Notes on Yesterday

Richard Curtis’ Beatles rom-com Yesterday was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Danny Boyle may be the director but this is a Richard Curtis film, and it would be much better if it weren’t. A world in which The Beatles have been erased from existence save for the memory of one struggling musician is a high concept comedy, but Curtis insists on making it a ho-hum rom-com. Kevin Willmott’s CSA showed that you have to rein in the butterfly effect for alternate history because everything would become unfamiliar. Would the Beach Boys be as important without Pet Sounds, their riposte to the Beatles? Curtis displays no such interest, save an Oasis joke, in exploring the butterfly effect of his own bloody high concept. Kate McKinnon is the most reliably comic element of this film, and she is lip-smackingly playing a caricature record executive – Hunter S Thompson’s famous jibe mixed with notes of her SNL Hillary Clinton. But then all the characters in this film are caricatures. This poses a problem when Curtis wants you to care about the romance as if it involved characters with some humanity.

The romance is already scuppered by Jack (Himesh Patel) and Elly (Lily James) patently having the chemistry of hopeless dreamer and dutiful girlfriend in the opening scenes, until it’s bafflingly revealed they’re just friends. They do not hold themselves as fast platonic friends like Holmes and Watson in Elementary. When she complains she always wanted more, and Curtis writes improbable scenes doggedly making this fetch happen he, like Nick Hornby in Juliet, Naked, defies the felt experience of human nature. But this aggravating drive to the grand romantic gesture reaches a new low for Curtis. GK Chesterton once quipped that art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere. I draw the line at Curtis; in the vein of his Doctor Who episode in which he shamefully zipped Van Gogh to the future to hear Bill Nighy valorise him then returned him to the past to kill himself to general hand-wringing; resurrecting the murdered John Lennon as septuagenarian sage giving Jack a pep talk to make the finale’s grand romantic gesture. No… No. No. No!

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