How do you kill a 42 year old fat man who is waaaaaaay too emotionally invested in what happens with a remake of “The Thin Man”?
You hire Rob Marshall to direct it.
No matter what we hear about casting on this film, I’m going to be nervous to the point of irritated the entire time it’s in production. I’ll do my best to be fair, but the bitter sting of the awful “Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is still way too fresh for me to just assume Marshall will do right by one of my favorite films of all time.
No, scratch that. The “Thin Man” series is one of my favorite anythings of all time. It’s right up there with things like fire and penicillin and indoor plumbing. Nick and Nora Charles are my favorite married couple in Hollywood history, and no matter what I think of the individual films in the series, I will take any opportunity to watch William Powell as Nick and Myrna Loy as Nora.
For those of you not familiar with the series, Nick Charles was a police detective, and a darn good one. Then he met the lovely Nora, a socialite with a huge inheritance and a liver that seemed to be able to keep pace with his. Soon as you could say “bathtub gin,” Nick retired from the dangerous work in order to manage Nora’s estate and they were married. In the first “Thin Man” film, a family that Nick knows turns to him for help with the eccentric inventor father goes missing. He doesn’t want to solve a crime, but Nora’s so entertained at the idea of him doing it and getting to watch him work that she sort of goads him into getting involved. They stay pretty much non-stop liquored up, the most charming of charming drunk couples, and their dog Asta goes along for the cute. It’s a very funny film noir, created by Dashiell Hammett, the same guy who wrote “The Maltese Falcon” and “Red Harvest.” While Hammett wrote a thick stack of short fiction, he only wrote five novels, and “The Thin Man” remains a work of almost singular inspiration. It’s little wonder the film was so good… they stuck closely to the rich and funny book that Hammett wrote, and they absolutely nailed down the characters he wrote.
Nora’s no mere second banana. She and her husband have a thoroughly modern relationship in these films. She’s the one with money, but she doesn’t care about that. What she wants is to enjoy her life, and Nick wants to enjoy it with her. He’s not exploiting her or taking advantage of her. He represents something she needed in her life, a sense of rough, out-of-control excitement. The dynamics between them are crackling with energy, and it’s only because of the era when the films were made that they weren’t more explicit about the vigor of the love life that binds Nick and Nora. It’s obvious in the way they deal with each other that they are both loopy head over heels for each other, and that they know they’ve found the exact right person. They fit like puzzle pieces.
I have little faith that Rob Marshall is going to get that relationship right in a new movie, and with Johnny Depp already onboard as Nick, the real question here is who can possibly be the right Nora? It sounds, based on the laundry list that Deadline posted, like every actress in Hollywood is about to start meeting on the movie. It’s the exact list you’d expect it to be, and it’s sad that even in 2012, when non-conventional thinking is practically conventional, there’s not a single non-white name on the list. I guess it would open a can of worms if it’s a period film, but still… just some sign they’re thinking outside the norm here would be nice.
And of that entire list, there is one person who pops, who I think possibly could be the right person for the part.
Watch Emily Blunt in “The Adjustment Bureau.” The role as written is fine, I guess, but nothing special. It only becomes special because Blunt and Damon have real chemistry, and whatever it is between them becomes defining. I got a chance to watch her work on the set of “The Five-Year Engagement,” and again, she was able to help create the feeling of real long-term commitment between her character and Jason Segel. I think she has a warmth and a wit that elevates her above some of the other candidates, but she’s also a very powerful figure in her own right. She’s not going to be outmatched by Johnny Depp. There’s no danger of his Nick Charles skewing the gravity too drastically.
In the long run, I know it won’t really matter what happens with this film. The “Thin Man” movies I love aren’t going anywhere, and if this is terrible, I can just tune it out. But I wish someone else was seeing those actresses next week and directing the film so I could get excited about the possibility of a brand-new Nick and Nora Charles.
In the meantime, Johnny Depp’s new “Dark Shadows” will be in theaters soon.