Mirror, Mirror

23 Apr

Mirror, Mirror — directed by Tarsem Singh. Fractured Fairy Tale. 105 minutes Color 2012.


The Story: The Wicked Stepmother seizes the spotlight and Prince Charming as well.


Of all the actresses ambitioned to play Scarlet in Gone With The Wind there were only two who would not have been ridiculous, Bette Davis and Vivien Leigh, and for the same reason: they both possessed the temperament of hellcats, and they alone had in their skill kits a sense of period.

Exactly what that is, is hard to declare, except its absence is notably present in the performance of Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen, for she seems to have no sense of the genre in which she is performing, a costume drama at the least. She dismays by adopting the cracked ice of condescension, an amateur choice which wrecks the role at the outset by giving it no place to go.

Julia Roberts – no one can say they knew her after she was a pretty woman, because, now of a certain age, she is still one. But for years she coasted along on the white sailboat of her smile. To do that all she needed to do was be a gal. But that won’t wash any more, and she is now cast in character parts while having no actual skill at playing a character. All these years I waited for the genius of her brother, Eric Roberts, to break through – a mistake on my part to be sure. Now I want his sister to discover her craft.

Less harm can be done to the film by her, because the style of Mirror, Mirror begins in Fairyland Camp, and somewhere along the line shifts across into Bullwinkle Land. That is to say, it becomes dialogue-dependent rather than style-dependent, and the dialogue is vernacular. So, when the prince appears, one soon sees that the actor does not have a prince in him and does not have the pronunciation of one either: the word “adieu” is, by Princes, pronounced “adyou” not “a-do,” so the poor actor fails in his opening sequence. Fortunately the character he plays is a jerk, so it does not matter much, except that it too defies the necessary tone and doesn’t create one of its own.

And in a piece like this, tone is essential. Because without it you can’t really buy into the enchantment. Moreover, the written style and the acting style are in rash countermand to the visual style, which is glorious. The sets, the costumes, the wigs are lavish — imaginative and surprising and fun — as are the narrative conceits. Visually, it has the right tone.

As do the animation and the special effects, particularly that of The Beast – a terrific griffon. Snow White is right for the part, a lovely young actress, Lily Collins, and she is assisted by Nathan Lane as a pusillanimous courtier and by seven sexy dwarfs, all of whom are jolly good and all of whom survive the mishmash nicely.

Of course you want the Queen to be thwarted, and you want Snow White to save herself with her magic dagger. And you love Snow White floating through the snowy woods in a billowing May dress, and the Prince in his floor-length coat swashbuckling about is a treat that never palls. You root more for the visual effects than the characters, but you are let down that, despite the film’s stated promise, nothing new about that wicked queen has been revealed, either by one mirror or by two.

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Posted in FAIRY TALE, Fractured Fairy Tale, GOTHIC ROMANCE, Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane

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