Sunday, 18 January 2015

Into the Woods (3 Stars)

Right and wrong don't matter in the woods.

This is a weird film. It's a musical fairy tale mash-up swingers party. The central characters are a baker and his wife who have been cursed to remain childless. A witch promises to lift the curse if they give her four magical items: Cinderella's slipper, Rapunzel's hair, Red Riding Hood's cape, and the cow belonging to Jack, the boy in the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk" This brings them into contact with the characters from the four fairy tales, since their stories are all taking place concurrently in the woods.

A lot of the fairy tale action occurs off screen. For instance, we don't see Cinderella at the ball, we just see her leaving and being pursued by the prince. That's just as well. It would have added an extra 60 minutes to a film that already lasts two hours. All four fairy tales are resolved with their respective happy endings, but the story of the baker and the witch continues. Then the film takes a weird turn. The prince, already married to Cinderella at this point, meets the baker's wife in the woods and has an affair with her. We only see them kissing, but obviously more happens. As a result Cinderella leaves the prince and goes to live with the baker. It's all so unsettling to see the fairy tales that children love twisted into immorality. Welcome to the 21st Century!

Johnny Depp is the film's biggest actor, but only has a small role as the wolf. That's a shame, because he's the best singer in the musical. Only Meryl Streep (the witch) comes close. On the other hand, the "wolf" is such a creepy character. Rather than a murderous predator he seems to be a leering paedophile when he meets Red Riding Hood. It made me feel very uncomfortable.

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