Jude Law & Cameron Diaz Are Friggin' Doppelgangers (or, a review of Sleuth)
Two weeks ago, I went to see the new version of Sleuth. The original Anthony Shaffer play was one of my favourites, and the original 1972 screen version starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine was excellent as well. This newest film was directed by Kenneth Branagh, adapted by Harold Pinter and, in a neat twist, stars Caine in the Olivier role, and Jude Law in Caine's old role.
All a recipe for fun, right? Well, the film was sidetracked for me during a crucial scene when Jude Law is confronting Caine, and Law's hair happens to be a bit slick due to water or hair gel or what have you. I don't know if it was the lighting or how Law's face was framed, but I swear to god, in that moment he looked literally exactly like Cameron Diaz. It was creepy. The resemblance was uncanny. It's definitely in the eyes. If Diaz or Law widen their eyes, they're twins from above the nose and just below the hairline. Or, hell, maybe even including the hairline if Law has his wet blond locks from this film and if Diaz hasn't gone brunette at the moment.
Now, these are two people whose faces I've been looking at on the big screen for about 20 combined years. Hell, they were even in a movie TOGETHER as LOVE INTERESTS. Blerg. The Holiday just became far weirder than it seemed from the trailers. Did Narcissus get an executive producer credit? Who would've thought that Kate Winslet/Jack Black would be the second strangest coupling in a film? This is like the Seinfeld episode where George dated the woman that looked just like Jerry, except in this twisted scenario, it's Jerry dating the female Jerry. (Apropos of nothing, that episode fell flat for me because that actress looked nothing like Jerry Seinfeld. It was a pretty forced joke. Also, that same actress played the crime-solving nun on Father Dowling Mysteries, starring Tom Bosley. I watched way too much TV as a kid.)
The upshot of it is that Cameron Diaz has now been ruined forever. It's always a bummer when something like this happens. It's like when Mena Suvari hosted SNL back in the day, and she was in a skit where she impersonated Aaron Carter. While I applaud SNL for actually finding someone who looks like the person being impersonated (unlike recent cases of Maya Rudolph as Beyonce or Will Forte as John Edwards), the fact was that the wig and mild makeup made Suvari look exactly like Carter. It was, as they say, a cold shower. It ruined the whole Mena Suvari experience. Oddly enough, it doesn't affect American Beauty -- given the rumours about Kevin Spacey, it's actually quite believable that he'd be infatuated with Aaron Carter.
Anyway, that was the largest of several things that took my attention off of Sleuth. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not that Branagh created such a distracting setting for a story based around misdirection. Caine's character's house is one of the more unusual sets I've seen in a film. It looked, essentially, like the house in Beetlejuice after the Dietz family moved in and made it all Tim Burton-modern artish. The trouble in Sleuth, however, is that your attention should be focused on the intense mindgames between Caine and Law --- not wondering if the production designer is on acid. There were also a few too many avant-garde framings of the two men for my liking. Usually I'm a big fan of Branagh's directorial efforts (his Hamlet is probably the best Shakespearean film translation I've ever seen) and I think his acting is way too theatrically overblown, but this time it was his directing style that needed to be brought down several notches.
The film isn't all bad. There's a new ending that provides fresh surprises for fans of the original that think they can predict all the twists and turns. Alec Cawthorne makes a rare film appearance reprising his role from the 1972 film as Inspector Doppler. Caine and Law, as you'd expect, really bring it, and their scenes are suitably intense. Here's another wrinkle to the story of Law resembling Diaz. Let's just say it may have been intentional that Law looked like a woman, since there's a bit more overt...um, let's say sexual energy to the film that wasn't there in the original. I read an essay about Sleuth in school that argued the original Shaffer play had a strong homosexual subtext to it. Apparently Harold Pinter read this same essay, slapped his forehead, shouted 'By Jove, that's the ticket!' and started typing. In case you're wondering what I'm tap-dancing around, the last 30 minutes is just a hardcore sex scene between Law and Caine. It's disturbing. They wear fireman's uniforms. Law recites nothing but his Gigolo Joe dialogue from A.I., and even stranger, Caine reprises all his lines from On Deadly Ground in one bitter monologue. The scene was so powerful that several people in the theatre started making out and/or openly pleasuring themselves. That's the last time I attend a show at THAT theatre. Thrice bitten, four times shy.
Onward to the 2042 version of Sleuth, starring Jude Law and some young British actor who hasn't been born yet. Alec Cawthorne will be kept in cryogenic storage for a third go-around.