There are times when no matter how hard you try to come up with the stupidest idea in Hollywood history as a joke, someone else is out there working to come up with the stupidest idea in Hollywood history for real.
And this week, it looks like someone succeeded.
I understand that we are in the age of the reboot. I understand that when you reboot something, you should probably make some big choices that guarantee you’re not just doing what someone else has done before. I understand that adaptation is not a process that involves literally putting every syllable of something onscreen. All of that is a given.
Let’s also be clear that I like Jennifer Garner, more than I think I’m “allowed” to like her. I find her incredibly winning on film, and I think there’s a decency to her that is very appealing. She’s a beautiful woman, certainly, but she carries herself like a former nerd who had that “take the glasses off and WHOA!” moment we’ve seen in a million high school movies, a woman who didn’t grow up canonized just for how she looks. It makes her seem approachable on film, human-scaled, unlike some movie stars who project an untouchability. It also means she’s not the easiest person to cast, because she’s not just a “type.”
I think that’s why Garner’s never quite figured out the whole movie star thing. Or rather, Hollywood never quite figured her out. She may have carried an action-based show like “Alias” successfully, but it was never really the running and jumping and kicking butt that made that show good. It was the human heart that kept getting broken that made Sydney work as a main character. And on film, even in her best roles, I feel like the material has never really been the right fit. I’m not remotely surprised she has a production company, Vandalia Films, or that she’s trying to develop material that she could star in. You have to do that if you’re not happy with what you’ve been given to play. It’s essential for any actor who wants control over the roles they’re offered.
But for Disney and Vandalia to band together on “Miss Marple” with Mark Frost writing and Garner possibly starring, it takes a special kind of idiocy.
Miss Marple, for those not familiar with her, is a spinster who solves mysteries as a sort of hobby to keep herself busy in and around the village of St. Mary Mead. Created by Agatha Christie, Marple was defined by the fact that she was an elderly woman in a tiny town, the last person anyone would be afraid of when committing a crime. And the archetype certainly works for an American audience. After all, “Murder She Wrote” went on the air when Angela Lansbury was 53 years old, and it stopped production on her 183rd birthday. Audiences certainly enjoyed that character, and while we are indeed a youth obsessed culture, if you want to make Miss Marple over as an American character, why not cast Betty White, sit back, and rake in the mountains of dollar bills you’d inevitably make?
Instead, they’re seriously talking about a “hot young” Miss Marple. That sounds like a joke. It’s one of those things I can’t believe anyone having a serious conversation about, much less hiring a writer to actually execute, and yet here we are. Mark Frost is no slouch, either. I’ve got imagine he’ll turn in a solid piece of work, and I’m sure if Garner does end up making the film, she’ll be good at playing whatever he writes.
But why? Why not just create a new character? Do you think teenage kids are going to see the poster and be like, “Oh, SNAP! They’re bringing Marple back! Agatha Christie is my JAM!” Seriously? There’s zero commercial value with people who don’t know the character, and whoever does is going to know immediately that this isn’t Marple.
Ultimately, I don’t care. Agatha Christie’s work doesn’t mean much to me, and it’s been adapted so many times already that it’s hardly what I would call sacred. But as a symptom of the way Hollywood thinks and the way we’re eating the pop culture of the past, it is disturbing, and pushes reality past parody to a place I find really unpleasant.
And so it goes. And so it goes.