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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on March 27, 2004
We should all be grateful to Dennis Potter, Mel Gibson, Keith Gordon and Robert Downey Jr for giving filmgoers the opportunity to see that films can be cutting-edge innovative and that they don't have to fit a formula mold. The Singing Detective probably breaks every rule critics and audiences may have in their minds about the way a film should be, but I for one didn't care - it was a stimulating and drew me into its web right from the start.
Dennis Potter wrote a rich multilayered screen play that challenges and bedevils - watching it was work and fun and joy and emotive and playful.
Mel Gibson had the smarts to know how this film should be made and chose just the right people to pull it off, including himself as Dr. Gibbon. People have commented over and over about how different Mel looks in this role, but I think Dr. Gibbon tells us a lot about who Mel Gibson actually is.
Keith Gordon worked his Fellini-like magic on the screen play and with the actors and never bowed to the common-place. If you've ever seen "Waking the Dead", his touch in TSD is so present in the nuances of the dialogue and the darkness which he imbeds into the white-bright hospital scenes. I had wondered how he would accomplish jumping back and forth from the various 'Dark' worlds, but then I noticed the small repetitions, played out verbally and visually over the course of the film.
Robert Downey Jr came roaring onto the screen creating every aspect of Dan Dark with perfection - I saw no flaws. What I did see was his uncanny ability to hold Dan Dark's lightness just deep enough under the surface for us to wonder at first whether there was hope for him. Donwey's skill with the physicality of a role was also very evident, especially during the first stages of Dan's illness and in the scene where in a scene with his mother.
The dialogue is witty but sometimes Dan is hard to understand because of his infirmity - the DVD has English subtitles if that's a problem. Although I must say that as the film progressed, I realized it didn't seem to matter that I was missing a little dialogue here and there - the physical story telling took center stage a lot and as I said before themes were revisited to draw the collage together. In the end I knew exactly what had been said intuitively.
A big plus is Keith Gordon's commentary. One disappointment - I wanted Dan Dark to sing and dance more, but I know that wasn't the way to go.
I'm very clear that this rare breed of film should be revisited to get the full impact of its message of suffering, healing, love and redemption, so for me, buying it was a must. You have to be willing to jump into the film - get in the middle it. Besides wrongly holding TSD up against the mini-series, perhaps some of the harsher reviews are coming from those who subconsciously refused to take the plunge into Dan's world. It's a pretty organic piece that deserves full tilt participation, if you want to experience its complete message - if you want to find more than clues.
See The Singing Detective with no preconceived notions and the desire to evolve your thinking about the anatomy of a film and you will have a jolly good time and maybe learn something about yourself too.
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This film is not anything like the 1986 British mini-series. This shorter version is a daring and mostly successful attempt by director Keith Gordon to fuse all the elements of the story into a madcap collection of tough reality and odd hallucinations. Dan Dark (Downey) is a bedridden author severely disabled by the worst case of psoriasis imaginable. He refuses any medication and thereby experiences hallucinations - or reality - or stories for his next book? Director Gordon teases us through out the movie. Downey is exceptional as the acid tongued, highly emotional, screaming patient who has a wisecrack quip for any lowly doctor or nurse that comes his way. He verbally abuses his wife who can barely keep up with attacks, but sometimes shines through when needed. There's a lot of paranoia in this story and the 40's film clips where Dan Dark is the detective investigating some murders is part tongue in cheek and part possible reality. The scenes are chunks of 40's detective clichés thrown into a series of sentences. It's masterfully amusing. When Downey gets nearly unbearable to watch as the pain stricken patient, the film switches to a hallucinatory dance and signing number driven by Dan Dark's imagination. Sometimes it seems like a diversion and other times it's sheer brilliance. All the actors, Robin Wright Penn, Adrien Brody, Katie Holmes and Mel Gibson (as the nearly unrecognizable psychiatrist) do masterful jobs and Dennis Potter's dialogue is amazingly crisp. It's a good story, albeit sometimes disjointed, but the entire experience is well worth the time.
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on March 27, 2004
I'm going to have to admit that I'm a huge fan of the multi-talented, gifted, and beautiful Robert Downey Jr. He is "IT" in my book.
I am also a huge fan of The Singing Detective. I've seen this film five times on the big screen and I'm about to see it several more times on DVD.
It pains me to admit that my husband didn't care for TSD the first time he saw it!
I should say he didn't care for MOST of the movie. He loved the music and he liked the ending, but the drive home from the theatre was a little difficult because he was very grumpy! To break the tension, I decided to turn on the TSD soundtrack since he seemed to love it so much!
Then I decided that it was time for him to get a little background on the film.

I thought I had already "prepared" him for it, but obviously I hadn't prepared him enough!! I talked to him about it - a lot. He listened. I explained a little bit about the medicine, Dark's hallucinations, the psoriasis, the detective book, the tremendous guilt Dark felt about his "betrayal" of his mother etc. I noticed he was becoming a little more receptive to chatting about this very compelling story.
A few days later, he started singing "Three Steps to Heaven" with a big smile on his face and told me that he "just can't seem to get that song" out of his head. He asked me if he could borrow the soundtrack to put in his car while he ran some errands. I told him he couldn't - I love it too much - but I let him take my car so he could listen to "Three Steps to Heaven" and the whole soundtrack again and again and again.
When he came back from running his errands, I said to him, "It sounds like you might be changing your mind about this movie."
He said with a big smile on his face, "How can you get the guy with the psoriasis out of your mind?"
That was his word-for-word reply!
He was starting to "get" it! He was starting to "get" Downey!
Join the club!!!
We talked about it a lot more and he became very interested in the discussion!
Then he went off on another errand and listened to his precious soundtrack some more!
When he came home, he said, "OK, I'm READY to see this movie now!"
We saw it together a second time! He loved it so much we went back a third time.
He's now a huge fan of the movie and of Robert Downey Jr!
The only way to FULLY appreciate this movie is to do a little homework on Potter. The audience has to be an "informed" audience. In the book Potter on Potter, Dennis Potter says, "First of all, it's not in any sense a précis of the original series, and secondly, it is totally rethought." Keith Gordon has said many, many times that Potter wouldn't have been interested in a "re-make". He was very happy with the British series exactly as it was. Gordon said, "By changing the whole format, he was, I think, trying to take his basic idea and style, and create something new. Sort of the way a composer might take a piano piece they've written and turn that into a symphony, using the same basic melody and structure."
I'm so incredibly impressed with Potter's new The Singing Detective "symphony"!
It was masterfully conducted by Keith Gordon.
Robert Downey Jr. gave the bravura performance of his career!
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on February 19, 2004
Okay, forgive the cheesy noir title, but this was an excellent film. This genre-defying film has so much sub text and eye candy and story that I must admit that it did not surprise me that Paramount did not release the film more widely. The average moviegoer just wouldn't be able to wrap their mind around it. Hearing about the film introduced me to the miniseries which I bought and then when the film was finally released, I had to drive from Birmingham to Atlanta to see it and then three months later drove to Montgomery to see it for the second time. I am so excited to see it coming out on DVD. Its only a shame more people haven't even HEARD of this movie. The acting was wonderful, the humor sharp, the detective scenes wonderfully nastalgic, the music grooving, and the story thought provoking. I can't wait to have the chance to see it again and again. And running a third of the length of the original miniseries (and convieniently Americanized), it will prove to be an even more enjoyable viewing experience. Find it, watch it, buy it! Support this film!!!
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on March 27, 2004
Next to "Chaplin", this is Robert Downey, Jr.'s finest performance ever! He shines in this role! I love everything about The Singing Detective!! It has everything: comedy, drama, song and dance numbers. I have seen this film 8 times (four times in the theatre, twice in Chicago where I saw Robert receive a career achievement award from the film festival there) and get something different from it each time. The rest of the cast is brilliant and they all add their own little flair to this clever film. Adrian Brody and Jeremy Northam are particular stand-outs for me. I love to watch Downey's interaction with his hallucinations and co-stars. To say that this movie is a trip is a compliment. It is A TRIP!!!!! A wonderful, fun trip. I never once thought "Are we there yet?" and when we were there I didn't want to leave the car. I was like a little kid in a candy store with this film, and there was plenty of candy.
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on January 8, 2015
Good music
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