How a spot of knitting saved me from Daniel Radcliffe

Generally, I don’t like to go in for criticism (unless it’s the oodles of literary criticism I used to churn out for an English degree or my attempts at film critiques on here.)  Neither do I like to join the internet chorus of hate, aimed at everyone and everything. The kind of criticism that leaves me cold is the very personal kind; the kind that hurts, the kind that causes you to mull things over for a day or two, but I made the mistake of watching Victor Frankenstein last night (Sky Movies) and, despite my aversion to public personal attacks, I feel impelled to put it out there.


The non-acting Daniel is a lovely young man.  No perceived airs or graces.  He’s clearly in possession of a strong work ethic and in love with his job.  He happily plugs his films on various chat shows, willing to go on and on in an engagingly polite, posh, public school kind of way; but the Daniel who’s being himself on the goggle box, is no different to the Daniel in acting mode; and therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would have said, if confronted by the 16th century version of Daniel Radcliffe, champing at the bit to give Hamlet a go.  Let’s take a while to pause here and imagine Daniel giving ‘To Be or not To Be’ his very limited ‘all.’

The problem with Daniel is that he’s seemingly oblivious (or maybe not) to the reason he got the gigantic Harry Potter gig in the first place; namely the engine that runs practically the entire showbiz world – NEPOTISM (that deserves capitals.)  His mother is a casting agent (with acting experience) and his father a literary agent (ditto acting experience.)   The Harry Potter lot wanted an unknown kid for the role, but instead went for the kid whose mother had connections at the BBC (Radcliffe had a part in the BBC’s 1999 version of David Copperfield.)  Daniel is adamant that his parents played no part in his incredibly ‘lucky’ break into the acting world, but that’s the kind of thing you think when you’re about 10 years old.  In playing Harry Potter, Radcliffe was on to a winner from the get go (such was the love for the books they could have gone with any cute kid in NHS glasses) and, at some point, the producers must have thought they could compensate for a distinct lack of thespian skills by surrounding Daniel with a bunch of top notch British actors who could pick up the slack.  Now that Radcliffe is older that ploy simply isn’t going to work.

I’d like to digress here and mention that the only kid in the Harry Potter trio who could actually act was Rupert Grint (no showbiz connections.)  Old Rupert managed to bring comedy, pathos and spirit to the Ron Weasley part, often upstaging Radcliffe in the process.  And yet somehow, and rather inexplicably, Radcliffe and Emma Watson (another one seriously lacking in the acting department) continue to be cast in major roles.  Just imagine all the talented young hopefuls out there, missing out on all the juicy, youthful parts, just because they don’t know someone who knows someone who knows someone else.

I began my viewing of Victor Frankenstein with high hopes – anything with James McAvoy in it is usually a winner in my cinematic books, and James did not disappoint.  Why, it was as if he knew he had to go all out, with acting guns a blazing, to make up for his co-star’s inability to act.  Therefore I was treated to the sight of McAvoy/Frankenstein practically giddy with the effort to instill some kind of acting expertise into a film which is, quite frankly, ludicrous at times.  But then what can you expect when your plot line involves stitching together lumps of meat (this bit rather alarmingly reminded me of my knitting) and plugging the whole thing into what counts as your nearest Victorian socket.

Victor Frankenstein reminded me of those ancient British Hammer horror flicks (which to be fair are now sort of counted as classics.)  And McAvoy was determined to ‘ham’ it up in true Hammer style as much as possible.  He left no acting stone unturned.  It was like watching the best bits from every Shakespearean character ever, as McAvoy gave us a bit of Hamlet, a bit of Mercutio, a bit of Macbeth; utilising maniacal laughter, lunatic, rolling eyes and a mad scientist type frenzy.  Whilst Igor/Daniel Radcliffe gave us Daniel Radcliffe, if he had a hump (which turned out to be some sort of gigantic boil) and a funny walk.

Determined to stick it out, I turned to my knitting bag and cast on 28 stitches to begin a row or two of intarsia knitting (knitting with two or more colours, and very fiddly and time consuming it is too.)  Knitting is a wonderful hobby.  It’s creative, without being too hard, i.e. most people can do it if they’re shown how.  It can be absorbing, when you’re doing bits that require full attention to the pattern, or it’s something you can do on automatic pilot whilst attending to something else; which is how I originally began knitting.  Back when the sons were very little, I used to knit for hours on end, as a way to pass the time whilst keeping a steady eye on what they were up to.

I began my first row of intarsia just as Frankenstein lanced the oversized pimple on Igor’s back, which saved me from having to focus on the hose and bucket set-up, used to extract the revolting contents from Igor’s hump/abscess.  Thank goodness I’m concentrating on these two strands of fetching red and cream 4 ply thought I, instead of on Daniel Radcliffe’s attempts at conveying pus-extraction related agony.

I knitted my way through Daniel’s torturously ineffective attempts at conveying love sickness, anger, disappointment and sadness (these emotions unfathomably all looked the same) whilst the rest of the supporting cast ventured into the realm of parody, in an effort to point out that yes, there are actors in the building.

The bloke who directed this British flick also directed several episodes of Sherlock, which is probably why we got that Moriarty actor as an obsessively religious, Victorian Mr Plod, out to get Frankenstein and stop his sinful, mucking-about-with-electricity ways; and why I also glimpsed Mark Gatiss in a tiny bit part, hovering above the giant monster as it was about to be plugged into its celestial charger. Actually this tells you a lot about mankind’s usual view of new technology.  You can just imagine all those late Victorians complaining about the evils of new-fangled electricity.  Oh yes, the odd light bulb is fine and we don’t mind a couple of electric bars on the fire but where’s it all going to end?  With the raising of the dead I tell you.  It’d be just typical if some mad, genius scientist came along, knicking bits off dead animals and suchlike, and built himself a monster.  These hi-tech lot think they’re God don’t they?

By the time Victor Frankenstein ended, I’d knitted myself a respectable piece of intarsia, which more than compensated for any failings on the part of the young Mr Radcliffe.


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