Picoreview: Maleficent: a worthy re-telling of (specifically Disney’s) Sleeping Beauty, and one that caused me to leave the theatre thinking “Victors write the histories.”
It’s not perfect. There’s a voiceover that I think would have been better done as in-story storytelling instead, but to have done that successfully I think the movie would have needed a PG13/12A rating rather than the PG it got. And–this is something I will almost never say–I thought it *should* have been a PG13 movie.
That was never going to happen, though, because adults aren’t the target audience, even if they’re going to go to it in droves. Given that it’s a movie made for kids…I think they did a pretty damn splendid job. And–the opening scene–no, I’ll put it behind the spoiler cut, because it’s actually beautiful enough I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
Jolie was *wonderful*. She could have been even more wonderful, but again: target audience, ratings. I’m pretty sure 6-10 year olds will think she’s utterly terrifying. Indeed, apparently while in makeup she scared the bejeezus out of her own 10 year old, and in a scene with 4-year-old Aurora, her own 4 year old daughter ended up playing the part because the other child actors that age wouldn’t go near her, so she’s probably the right amount of scary. :) She also gets some genuinely funny moments, and her wings, oh my lord, her wings are so beautiful.
Elle Fanning, who I like as an actor even more than her older sister Dakota (and I love Dakota), is equally wonderful as Aurora. One of the best moments in the movie is born from her utterly convincing sweetness combined with a totally reasonable, absolutely accurate, and completely mis-read interpretation of Maleficent. It requires Fanning to be note-perfect, and she is. Throughout, she is.
The kid playing Phillip is so totally bland he’s funny. Tweens will no doubt adore him, but I adored him because of one revisionist moment that I’d been quite worried about and which was both written and played very nicely. King Stephen is also *extremely* well acted, I said carefully, not wanting to go into spoilers. :)
But as far as the male roles are concerned, the cake goes to Sam Riley, as Diaval the raven, who hasn’t got much to say but is exceedingly eloquent in his presence. I had ALL KINDS of plans for how the story was going to play out with him, and it didn’t, which is fine, but wow, he was *wonderful*.
I’m looking at what I’m writing here, and it’s pretty glowing. Moreso than I necessarily think the film deserves, because I think it fails to be greater than the sum of its parts. It’s as *good* as the sum of its parts; I just thought it could be greater than them. I’m going to put some further, more spoilery commentary behind the cut, because I want to talk about some of the reasons I think it’s flawed. And about some specific reasons I think it’s wonderful.