Friday, April 20, 2012

Updated heroine, vanity thrills

From the April 15-30 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The first of two film interpretations of the classic fairy tale Snow White this year, the comedy-family flick Mirror Mirror campily but amusingly reimagines the hapless victim character into a feisty and more proactive heroine.

It doesn’t follow the long-recognized version of the young woman from the classic Disney animated movie and various media, although it reintroduces familiar elements from the earlier reinventions.

Director Tarsem Singh, known for his visually imaginative films such as The Cell and The Immortals, similarly gives a refreshing, if less striking iteration of the Brothers Grimm tale.

Gorgeous Lilly Collins as Snow White fits; yes, you’ll get past her thick eyebrows quickly, and she’ll even give off an Audrey Hepburn-esque vibe eventually. The vain Queen is played by pretty Julia Roberts, who takes some getting used to in outlandish garb, but radiates elegance, nonetheless.

Interestingly, the backstory is told in a stylized animated sequence. Snow White is menaced by the new Queen, the stepmother taking over the kingdom after the King’s mysterious disappearance. Confined to the castle for years, Snow White has no idea that the once-happy denizens are now agonizing over the usurper’s greedy governance.

Visiting Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) finds himself accosted in the territory by seven recognizable characters, and reports the mugging incident to the Queen. Seeing the rewarding possibilities of partnering with the rich and handsome young man, she attempts to entice Alcott with the idea.

But Snow White, as expected, becomes a major obstacle, showing an interest in him during a costume party at the palace. Ordering her right-hand man Brighton (Nathan Lane) to get rid of her step-daughter permanently, the Queen proceeds with her cougar-ish scheme.

Mirror Mirror  has an artificiality to it that neutralizes any sense of immediacy. It’s approached in a very grandiose but cartoony manner; it’s no surprise that the less serious tone has its corresponding silly moments. The comedy treatment is quite accessible, but for those who might want their Snow White darker and more epic, there’s the new Snow White and the Huntsman action film in a few months.

But this more mirthful movie also favorably updates the story and characters, ditching the baggage that earlier interpretations have given the story. Here, Snow White’s not a perpetually na├»ve girl waiting for her hero; she actually rescues him the first time they meet. The seven dwarfs here aren’t hardworking miners; they’re bandits. And the Queen has some depth and humanity, despite her obvious inhumanity.

Also adding immensely to this film are the excellent and creative costumes by the late designer Eiko Ishioka. They’re not as exotic and fantastical as those seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Immortals, but they’re still distinctly and remarkably dreamlike, and enhance scenarios appropriately.

The movie’s pacing can be challenging, however. Yes, it’s very artificial, but there are still unnecessary and repetitive parts. Still, it refreshes with its bold yet light take, delighting with its sillier moments, including a sequence devoted to the Queen’s very odd beauty treatment, and even a Bollywood-inspired song-and-dance number. 

No comments: