Enola Holmes 2
What a wondrous multicultural haven nineteenth-century London was! Sure, women still have to fight the good fight (and then some! Stick it to those men. With fists and dynamite. They deserve it. Show them their place! What’s that? The writer and director are men? Never mind. We can change that for Part 3). Empire magazine, thoroughly suffused with woke-first garbage, was moderately positive on this picture, extolling its exploration of “themes of feminism and class disparity… a job well done”. Not so much, no. Rather, like its predecessor, Enola Holmes 2 manages to be quite enjoyable, in spite of this millstone around its neck, although it’s on even boggier ground this time.
The movie’s headiest achievement is of the sort one might take as satire, the kind of thing those taking the piss out of woke think – easy to do – would suggest (eliciting, for example, RTD tweeting critics of his trans-caravan nu-Who to “Fuck off!”) In a move that makes the likes of faux-feminist and mechanical digger Steven Moffatt look like a hapless amateur, Jack Thorne’s screenplay boasts a female Moriarty (Mira Troy, geddit? Actually, I didn’t until they said, perhaps for the very absurdist reasoning just outlined).
But not just a female Moriarty; a black female Moriarty (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). She’s like Missy and the Fourteenth Doctor rolled into one! As if RTD, Moffat and Chibnall got together for a “creative” threesome. The problem Thorne encounters, however, when Moriarty announces her motivation, is that her race can’t be part of the package of grievances (“I am a woman I can’t… join clubs. I can’t own shares. I can’t advance myself as they can”). Not when there’s a Pakistani/Kenyan Scotland Yard inspector standing opposite her, when society balls are replete with numerous minority guests and when Sherlock’s new roomie is revealed as an Indian doctor.
It’s a strange brew, and doubtless Thorne and Bradbeer can justify it to anyone listening. Who will either supplicate themselves adoringly or be on the receiving end of insinuating remarks should they question such a tack. Bradbeer also duly steps up his celebration of sisterhood here (coming from men, I shall repeat), as Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), mumsie Eudoria (Helena Bonham-Carter) and faithful jujitsu expert Edith (Susie Wokoma) give the man (the police-man) what for in a jaunty bout of fisticuffs and heave-ho. Mumsie is also super keen on acts of domestic terrorism, but since she hasn’t killed anyone, it’s completely okay. Right? Understood? Good, just so we’re clear.
Such rudimentary and profuse Hegelian imports invariably have me giving a movie short shrift, but the truth is that, when it’s able to get on with telling its story, Enola Holmes 2 can be a lot of fun, like its predecessor. There’s a winning rapport between Brown and Henry Cavill’s Sherlock (the latter is, while a highly unlikely casting choice, entirely winning through his emphasis on reserve. The polar opposite of Cumberbatch’s bugs and ticks, basically). Bradbeer may be overly indebted to Guy Ritchie’s busy-busy-busy directorial flourishes – solving cyphers visually, literalised thought processes, you name it – but he ensures the proceedings are zesty and enthused. Daniel Pemberton’s main theme is yet another winner (he might be the most consistently pleasing composer working currently, but he’s surely in danger of spreading himself too thinly, like Michael Gacchiano before him).
The mystery is as slender as last time, but the movie takes more effort to conceal its limitations via a Sherlock side-investigation that makes little sense but holds the attention. Obviously, the plot’s been overtly politicised (this couldn’t simply be an adventure. Sherlock may not do politics, but Enola is overly concerned with social justice, hence grafting on the matchgirls’ strike… and substituting rather nasty necrosis of the jaw with typhus). It doesn’t really work as a “mystery”, given the history of the use of white phosphorous vs red phosphorous, but as is clear, fidelity isn’t going to get in the way of Enola flying her progressive colours.
The pleasures come elsewhere. David Thewlis pulls out all the stops as leering, uber-unpleasant Inspector Grail. The extended ball sequence finds Enola tripping up on social etiquette but rather charmingly being taught to dance by ongoing love interest Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). Brown remains a likeable lead, and one can hardly blame her for being indoctrinated with the woke Kool-Aid. Like her Stranger Things character, one rather hopes she’ll break free from her conditioning. Ultimately, though, Enola Holmes 2 tips the scales towards irritation, determined to pile on the puerile presentism, while the first movie escaped such sentencing by a whisker.