Film Review: Maleficent

MALEFICENT

Disney’s Maleficent is a rich fairy tale which should prove beguiling to viewers.

A young fairy grows up in a peaceful forest which neighbours a human kingdom. As Maleficent grows up, a betrayal sets in motion a series of events which has consequences for both worlds…

Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut is an aural and visual fantasy feast. The director’s visual effects background is clear from the outset. Notwithstanding, the story is also strong; functioning as a compelling retelling of a well-known tale.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s narrative works to both provide back story to the Sleeping Beauty tale, and to subvert it to make its antagonist more rounded. More than a one-sided villain, Maleficent is given shades to make her character more compelling in this version. Perhaps it says something that she is most enthralling when she is bad, nevertheless the portrayal is satisfying overall.

The influence of recent Disney films is present in Maleficent. This is by no means a bad thing; but simply means that the film may have a twist that some viewers will predict. Nevertheless, the depiction here is a healthy one, that few will find fault with.

Like Woolverton’s work in Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent is a darker fairy tale that still remains accessible for family audiences. The small elements of humour work well to bring lightness. The film would be less family friendly without these moments.

The art direction and costuming plays a substantial role in Maleficent. The effects are also superb, and the cinematography makes the most of its striking subjects. There is some marvellous silhouetting, and camera work in transporting viewers through the fantasy landscape.

Angelina Jolie shines as the title character. She brings a suitable campness to the role of Maleficent. Elle Fanning is well cast as Aurora, and Sharlto Copley is on good form as Stefan.

Maleficent is a highly entertaining fantasy, combining traditions of classical Disney with that of the emerging direction of the studio.

Film Review: Sleeping Beauty

Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty is an interesting experiment. The film is intriguing for the most part, but not a particularly satisfying endeavour.

Lucy is a young University student struggling with money problems. Working several jobs to pay her way, Lucy answers an advertisement for a waiting staff at private parties. The money is good, but the circumstances are bizarre. The more Lucy becomes involved with the the secretive world, the more she begins to question what is really going on…

Sleeping Beauty does not follow a conventional format. As the opening scene illustrates, the film is more like a series of scenes rather than a cohesive narrative. Some of the sequences have little to do with the overarching narrative, choosing instead to concentrate on other aspects of Lucy’s life.

Perhaps the main problem with Sleeping Beauty is that it is difficult to relate to suitably empathise with the central character. Lucy is a cold character; there is little that is personable about her. Whilst the struggling student is not an unusual character type, Lucy’s detachment means that it is hard to warm to her. Although she may be pitied in some scenes, an attachment to the protagonist is never really formed.

Sleepy Beauty features an interesting premise that is never fleshed out in a satisfying manner. The job that Lucy does is very strange, yet this is only viewed through a blighted perspective. There is a little exposition that explains why clients may opt for the service, but even this is reduced to two brief conversations. Any sense of apprehension on Lucy’s part only appears much later than it reasonably should do. Moreover, the idea of providing a service for payment and doing the same thing for free is touched upon, but never explored in any further detail.

Julia Leigh’s film treads a line between exploitation and exposition. It is necessary to depict what Lucy does, as there is so little conversation regarding this. Yet at the same time, some depictions can be considered overly gratuitous. The cinematography works well however, with the film being shot in subdued tones in keeping with the sombre theme.

Emily Browning offer a solid performance as Lucy. It is an unusual role, but Browning does a good job. Rachael Blake is also good as Clara, a rather enigmatic character. She is the most fascinating character in the film, and it is a pity that she does not receive more screen time.

Sleeping Beauty is provocative in its ability to cause discomfort in viewers, but lacks the depth and coherence to make it a great drama.

Sleeping Beauty Trailer

Not quite a fairy tale, Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty looks fascinating. Emily Browning stars as Lucy, a young student who takes a job as a ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The trailer does not reveal too much, but it looks as if the film will be disturbing. I am really looking forward to seeing this one. Sleeping Beauty is released on 14th October 2011.