Creator: Max Landis
Verdict: Really, really good fun
My my we havn’t done one of these for a long time. I did two of these when I just started out, I did a television review of Stranger Things and American Horror Story: Murder House. Since then I could talk about BoJack Horseman but I won’t. Call me a Netflix junkie because I am, I’m a student, we all are. Maybe I’ll talk about Rick and Morty season 3 who knows
First things first, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency the TV show is not Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency the Douglas Adams novel, I can’t comment quality wise because I havn’t read it but the main character is very different, and it’s very American. Instead of starting with Dirk heading down to Cambridge, we start with Elijah Wood, (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Lord of the Rings), setting up plot threads in what is undoubdetly a much more American reimagining than we saw with Stephen Mangan. The plot, I am not even going to begin to describe, and the television show isn’t served very well by me trying, so we’re going to move onto the review.
Stick with this anecdote because it is going somewhere. My mum has never really been a fan of Sci-fi, or so she said. We watched The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi together which she liked even less than me. I had a really, really weird experience of watching Star Trek Beyond with her, then coming home and having her tell me that, to quote her, “it has no merit”, as I’ve said before on this blog I really like Star Trek Beyond and I told her why, I said the script is written clearly with a love of the source material, I never watched the television show but Simin Pegg clearly did and he got me on board, the make up is Oscar worthy and it’s directed with a sense of verve and fun and colour, and the actors are good and they play off eachother really well and it pulls on your heart strings and she said, yes that’s all true, but I still think “it has no merit”. Which left me a bit dumbfounded as she’d just aknowledged all it’s, um, merits. So my mum doesn’t like Sci-fi, or so she says. So I watched Moon with her, a film which my Dad refuses to watch because he seemingly has something against one-location-films, he will never watch The Thing even though it’s one of only two perfect films I’ve ever seen. Long story short, my mum loved Moon, I love Moon. It made me cry. After that my Mum revised her sci-fi manifesto to that she likes sci-fi if it’s about making you see new ways of thinking. If there is one thing you can’t argue about Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency it’s that it talks about new ways of looking at things, not least of all holism. It does have elements of smart alecness and choppy action that might get on the nerves of the over 40s, but that is very much a staple of Max Landis’ writing, (Chronicle, American Ultra), and it has enough brains and heart to keep itself going.
The film does have a problem, due to what holism is, of character peril, and actually due to the element of time travel, which it introduces faily early on, but there is a certain rube goldberg machine element to seeing how they get out of problems and seeing how all the timlines sort of fit together in a jigsaw. There is actually an element of the time travel sort of self knowingly fiting together in a way it never does ever in films. In the past, as much as I like American Ultra, and as much as I do feel involved in the characters in that film, this does do better. Landis is known for writing intersting character dialogue in his movies but an 8 episode Netflix series and the fact it’s based off a proper book instead of a half backed Mary Shelly prequel like Victor Frankenstein, gives him the opportunity to properly flesh out his characters and I felt really involved in their struggles in a way I just felt detatched from in some of his previous work. It is the best thing Max Landis has ever done that I’ve seen.
The film is aided by a cast who are really going for the material. Elijah Wood is the most fun I’ve seen him, Samuel Barnett, (Penny Dreadful) is clearly chanelling the Matt Smith Doctor Who, my least favourite Doctor Who, as the titular Dirk. However he’s doing it in a way that really works because I actually beleive in the character. I mean it is impossible to beleive that Matt Smith’s Doctor is a Doctor because, actually mainly because of the character tragectory set up by previous iterations but Sam Barnett has none of that history in his character but he gives it gravitas and dimentions that Smith lacked, that Barnett really didn’t have to give but I’m glad he did. The supporting cast are also lovely, Hannah Marks, (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Jade Eshete, who form the rest of the nuclear centre to the story are both really good and provide a really good counterbalance to what would otherwise become a complete sausagefest. There is a collection of completely scenery chewing performances that are a lot of fun, not least from Aaron Douglas, (Battlestar Galactica), who comes across somehow like a cross between Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Mr Plinkett in Half in the Bag, Michael Eklund, who’s this ridiculously punky energy stealing vampire figure who is just a ball of repressed hunger and energy, and Fiona Dourif, who whilst I don’t particularly care much about her plotline is a lot of fun. Dustin Milligan plays a character called Friedkin, (one of a few genre references in the film), who is this gloriously self aware character who starts off coming across like a macho inversion of the dumb blonde figure which would have such mysoginistic overtones otherwise, but he slowly becomes much more involved in the story and a much more intersting character, as does Neil Brown Jr., (Straight Outta Compton), who is really, really good in the TV show.
I started out watching Dirk Gently as what was going to be a Netflix fest including some BoJack Horseman and some Being Human, but before I knew it, it was the last episode and it was 5 o’Clock in the morning. It’s headscrambling, supremely weird, good fun. It has character conflict and arcs that I felt were pertinent to me, and struggles I’m going through, I thought it was uplifting and empowering to dispossessed millenials everywhere. It’s really really good.