Maybe I expected too much, or maybe it’s that when something is described on imdb as “slightly parodic,” it’s a warning one should heed. After all, how can something be a parody and not a parody at the same time? Therein lies my chief problem with Private Life. It’s not that it’s a film devoid of great moments, nor is it lacking in very funny ones. The problem is the mixture, or lack thereof, of these elements.
Lest I seem callously unaware of the historical context of the film, rest assured that I do know why it was groundbreaking. Going away from the Rathbone propaganda thrillers, it dared to frame Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as real-life humans. The very fact that we now consider such down-to-earth characterizations normal is a testimony to how influential the film was and is. And yet, just because something is important doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Parodies work if they go all the way and skewer their subject on every front. Dramas work because they take themselves seriously. There can certainly be successful humor in dramas, but too much pointing and laughing back at itself can tank a drama faster than a fake Loch Ness Monster. It’s as if Private Life wanted to have its cake and eat it too–to be as witty and wink wink as a Pink Panther-esque parody of Sherlock Holmes, but to simultaneously tug on the heartstrings and engage the mind. At some point, too much was too much, and I lost the ability to respect Holmes at all, which would be fine if we were supposed to stop caring about him.
Excellent moments and witty one-liners notwithstanding, this film isn’t going on my favorites list. I appreciate the door it opened for future artists to reimagine the possibilities inherent in the Holmesian world, but from now on, I’ll appreciate from afar.
How to get my newest book:
(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.
How to get the previous two books in the series:
(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.
(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.