January 13th, 2010

The Seven Percent Solution

Judy has been recommending The Seven Percent Solution for years. Finally, to make sure I watched it she sent me a copy for my birthday.

It's fun. It's also the sort of not trying very hard studio movie that I mostly steer clear of.  There's a script with a clever premise- Sherlock Holmes meets Sigmund Freud- which takes the easy way out with damsels in distress and murdered nuns and oriental villains and steam trains. A lot of competent film artists turn up and do their jobs and Nicol Williamson- for whom this was a rare stab at a starring role- acts his socks off- and everyone goes home feeling they've had a good day at the office. It's OK. Most movies are OK. At no stage of the proceedings did anyone- unless it was Williamson- think, "This could be amazing- I could do amazing work in this."

And now a note about accents. Robert Duvall is in the movie. He plays Dr Watson. Apparently none of our 1001 excellent British character actors was available at the time of casting. Duvall's attempt at a cultivated English accent bleats and brays and foghorns. It's hideous. Taken syllable by syllable, these are sounds a posh Englishman of the 1890s might conceivably have made, but that's not the point. The point is the lack of fluency.  Duvall seems to pause before every word,  adjust his tonsils, then deliver it with earnest deliberation- as if he were doing "the rain in Spain" and Professor Higgins were poised to smack him for every mistake. The thing about accents is they're unconscious. No-one thinks very much about the noises they make. Better then to get an accent slightly wrong than appear to be labouring at it.