Into the Woods directed by Rob Marshall
Now then Mr. Marshall, let me just say that I think you were a discernibly wise choice for director of this production. Having crafted the likes of Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Nine on the silver screen, your ability to adapt from theatrical/literary origins is wonderfully apparent. The shadows and spotlights of every frame are deftly organised to project an “in-your-theatre-seat” atmosphere, and each transition is of the smoothest consistency. On another note, I was not a fan of this film. Let us pause while I await the flaming arrows and witches’ curses to engulf me. Not because I don’t think it was well directed or adapted, and certainly not because I wasn’t excited for this film. I was very excited. (Mid-note: I’m aware that may have come across as sarcastic, but let me assure you it was not. The perils of being sarcastic 89% of the time; the remaining 11% of sincerity is blackened at the heart.)
The main reason was that it suffered from a case of TMSGO. A phrase I may have yanked from old SpillCom reviews, that is: Too Much Shit Going On. Which essentially, is the fault of the original musical. I am genuinely sorry for saying this, but I just thought it was a mess. The kind of mess that Moulin Rouge seemed to get away with because there was actually a central plotline to focus on (as wretched and ridiculously heartbreaking as it was). In this case, of course we’re all very over-familiar with these fairytales and their vague web of morals, but once they are smushed (yes) together and we’re presented with only fragments of the stories intertwining with fragments of others, it doesn’t feel as though any of the characters need to be cared about. Which is sort of an odd thing to say, especially of a musical, especially of a musical about fairytales, especially a Disney musical! But you must admit that in any of your favourite films, despite knowing their endings, you care about what is happening to at least one of the characters. The most I felt was “Well, you’re kind of a dick.” So perhaps it was a satire and over-arching tale of morality – be careful what you wish for! Don’t steal! Don’t be a dick! Don’t abandon your wife and child! Don’t be talking to strangers in the woods! Especially if they’ve dodgy singing voices! Etc. Also, it is admittedly a Sondheim musical, you know you’re going to have characters singing over each other’s lines left right & centre. Alright, fine. But it still wasn’t particularly enjoyable.
A few extraneous things that irritated me included A) Johnny Depp as the wolf. Right, maybe it’s just me, but I do not get Mr. Depp’s type-casted performance of “Vaguely Eccentric Character, Not Very Eccentrically Played”. He has this thing, this kind of quick eyebrow raise, wide-eyed and jaw dropped thing, which apparently is meant to convey darkness/weirdness/evil/mild electric shock. It gets on my nerves, unnecessarily. B) Sorry about your storyline, Rapunzel. Bless your gorgeous voice and gorgeous face and almost hilariously dismal amount of screen-time. Sorry about that. C) Wildly unnecessary songs. This has a rich soundtrack, very well sung on pretty much all accounts and beautifully arranged, but there were a lot of songs that didn’t feel as though they gelled very well. Ensemble musical woes, they hurt us all with their constant narratives. Songs such as “I Know Things Now”: Thank you for the re-cap of the events of the last 10 minutes, Red Riding Hood. Further narrative later on in the film of “Careful My Toe”: Cinderella’s step-sisters trying on the golden slipper. Marvellous. (/sarc.)
Now let’s be nice! Let’s be lovely and talk about the good I found in this film. A) Meryl Streep! Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, rightly so! Awesome performance, awesome transformation dress, all of the good Merylicious stuff that we know & love. B) Some of the songs are wonderful! My personal favourites included Giants in the Sky (Gavroche you adorable little thief), Last Midnight (feels), and the best of the lot, Agony. Agony was HILARIOUS, and the exact style I expected from this film. More Agony please! Yes, I’m already on the phone to a counsellor. C) The woods! The audience’s perspective was largely set clandestinely betwixt-branches and gave the film a really great atmosphere, the mist and moss so tangible and shadowed. Loved it.
I cannot believe I’ve cared this much about a fairytale musical to rant & rave about it for so long. And I saw it a week ago. What is my actual life. I wonder what author James Lapine would say to me in response? Perhaps: “Stay a child while you can be a child”. Yeah, well, as I write this I’m drinking a large glass of milk (Milky White) and wearing pyjamas. I’m just a tall, cynical child.
Rosie’s Review: 5.5 popcorn kernels of 10. Everytime I see Anna Kendrick I feel like I have more of a thing for her. Cutie.