So I woke up this morning and saw on Twitter that Disney will be doing a contemporary, edgy Miss Marple movie, starring Jennifer Garner as a 30-something year old Miss Marple. Would I love to see Miss Marple on the big screen? Sure, why not? I’ve always been more a Poirot fan than a Marple fan, but I’d happily pay the $12 to see any Christie story on the big screen. At least that’s what I thought until I heard about this movie. Now, I like Jennifer Garner, and I have no doubt she’ll act the part well. Here’s my problem: revamping Miss Marple into a 30-something American city girl removes all the charm from the character.
Miss Marple is an elderly spinster who lives in the quaint English town of St. Mary Mead. She’s nosy and gossipy, which is how she becomes embroiled in so many mysteries. Fortunately, she also has a memory like an elephant – she can usually remember people and events from her past that are similar in some way to something in the case, and this helps her solve the mystery. Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t like her as a neighbour – she’ll be the little old lady staring at me with beady eyes and noticing that I’ve come home an hour later than usual, or with a rip in my skirt, or singing Backstreet Boys songs at the top of my lungs. She’ll unearth all my secrets, not because I’m connected to some mystery, but because she just enjoys knowing everything about everyone. The only reasons I might have tea with her as a neighbour, the only reasons I find her likable as a character, are that she’s a charming, elderly British lady, who delivers spunk with the tea. It’s the incongruity between her harmless, gossipy façade, and her sharp intellect that solves the crimes, and makes her so lovable.
With this movie, Disney removes that incongruity. Now, Miss Marple becomes Jane (because who on Earth in 21st century America calls anyone Miss anything?) and St. Mary Mead becomes (insert random Hollywood-ish US city here). Now young and edgy, the only characteristic remaining from Christie’s Miss Marple is her curiosity. How will that make her different from a grown-up Nancy Drew? Or a young Jessica Fletcher? Or, for that matter, Law & Order: SVU’s Detective Benson or any number of female investigators/amateur detectives already on TV? Worse, I can just imagine the Hollywood subplot: how Miss Marple becomes a lifelong spinster. She falls in love with a young Belgian detective with an egg-shaped head who, unfortunately, is too enamoured with his moustache to pay her any attention. That’s my guess anyway. Even has spin-off potential.
I am generally leery of revamps, but I have to admit, I’ve seen some really good ones. I really enjoyed Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law’s Sherlock Holmes, and I adore the BBC TV series Sherlock. I also loved J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, in some ways even preferring it to the original shows. Batman Begins was pretty good, and so was TMNT. All of them changed details from the classic perception of their characters and stories, yet they all kept whatever it was that made their characters unique. Both Sherlock Holmes adaptations for example retained Holmes’ logical mind, interest and science, and the Holmesian characteristic of bored languor immediately switching to manic energy when “the game’s afoot.”
I’d love a Miss Marple movie with Helen Mirren, or Dame Judi Dench, or even Meryl Streep. Jennifer Garner? No, thank you, Disney. And if you must go ahead with this Marple film, please, please, please, at least stay away from Poirot.