The Singing Detective | Chicago Reader

The Singing Detective

Less a remake than a reinvention of the landmark 1986 BBC miniseries, Keith Gordon's vibrant, hyperstylized feature is based on a script completed by Dennis Potter shortly before his death in 1994. Potter conceived the film version of his story about a pulp novelist hospitalized by a skin disease as a corrective to the 1981 MGM production of his Pennies From Heaven, which he felt was misguidedly polished—“It was supposed to be a homemade musical,” he complained. Accordingly, the musical fantasy scenes in the new Singing Detective are raw and purposely amateurish. Although Gordon sometimes fumbles the tonal shifts of the material, the acting is rock solid. Robert Downey Jr. turns in a bravura performance as the afflicted writer and Robin Wright Penn is his match as the femme fatale, but the revelation is a virtually unrecognizable Mel Gibson as a loopy, sympathetic psychiatrist. 109 min.

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