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Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Snow White the Fairest Feminist of Them All in "Mirror, Mirror?"

I predict in a not so distant future, kids today will grow up with far less fairy dust in their eyes than much of their older generation did. Thanks, in part, to darker, less shielded contributions to so-called family cinema like Hunger Games, they might actually end up craving edgier films that that avoid romanticizing life stories and just give them the hard cold truth.

Well, it's not the worse thing that could ever happen to them.

That said, there is something about director Tarsem Singh's Snow White-inspired Mirror, Mirror that offers the nostalgia of romance past blended with a cunning embrace of the new age that is so often missing in classic children's tales. Let's call it the reinvention of the family film.

Gone are the days when Snow White slips into a narcoleptic state after sweetly devouring a near rotten apple given to her by an evil queen, later only to be conveniently rescued by a beautiful prince. In Mirror, Mirror Lily Collins plays Snow White, who is wide awake and restless, eager to escape from the clutches of her wicked stepmother. She really learns the value of her own independence when she finds she must fight to defend herself when her wicked stepmother (Julia Roberts, in a pitch-perfect performance) orders her imminent death in the woods at the hands of her servant, Brighton (Nathan Lane). True to the original tale, Brighton finds himself enamored with Snow White's compassion and sets her free instead. After feeling momentarily abandoned by her new-found freedom, Snow White later seeks shelter at the hut of seven devious little bandits (not to be confused with dwarfs).

But unlike the classic story on which it's based, Mirror, Mirror's most accomplished twist comes not merely with the more feisty nature of Snow White's character, but the movie's feminist turn by which Snow White later ends up having to save her Prince Charming(Armie Hammer) from the despicable queen, not the other way around. Aside from the spot-on performances, this Snow White twist makes the movie far more than what it could have been.

Collins, who I once doubted could carry a movie, really swept me off my feet. She is elegant yet badass all at once, without losing her femininity. Playing a soft-spoken princess with a sharp edge is not an an easy task, but she pulls it off. But it is Roberts as the deliciously vile queen with a serious inferiority complex who really steals the show here. She is adequately irredeemable and, as one underling says in the movie, "radiates crazy." You can tell she was having a blast in the role, even when she is duped by her own reflection in a mirror. And Hammer is perfectly cast as the pretentious yet dopey prince. Hammer, who himself often comes off with a slight air of arrogance mixed with boyish charm, nailed the performance. So does Lane, whose bumbling diplomacy appropriately added a sense of fear and tension to Roberts' dastard queen.

In true Singh form, the audience is treated to a glorious spectacle from beginning to end. Vibrant imagery coupled with gorgeous costume designs capture the mood of the film, even when it goes down its darkest paths. Mirror, Mirror won't change your life, but it's a fun homage to a timeless classic that lets you escape into a fairy tale world, that actually doesn't seem to far away from here.

Rating: B


dirtywithclass said...

Seems this one is better than it looked at first.

Film Gurl said...

I've heard really good things about this film. Though, I did think it was a bit odd to place Julia Roberts in the queen role. However, from the looks of the reviews it seems like it all came together. Good review, thanks for sharing! :)

Alex said...

Great review! I have been meaning to see this film but I think by now it's too late to catch it in theaters, I'll have to wait for the dvd release. Good to hear it's a more progressive take on the story!

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