Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Hollywood.com is on the scene at the 55th Cannes Film Festival, seeing the films and sipping with the stars. Check in every day to get the latest!
Day 5: The roar of suitcase wheels continues to echo through the Cote D'Azur Airport, as overnight flights drop off more stars, more entourages, more film executives, more wild-haired indie directors looking for financing. At one point, fierce soldiers in camouflage carrying Rambo-like automatic machine guns cleared the terminal because some ditz walked away from her makeup bag. It wasn't necessary to speak French to get the gist: "Get out now, while you can. Run for your lives!" Not to worry--it was a false alarm, but for some it made for a very dramatic entrée into the festival.
What's for lunch today along La Croisette? Many high-minded critics are eating crow. They never took the wildly popular Adam Sandler seriously and now he's joining world-class thespians in competition with his new romantic comedy, Punch-Drunk Love. "I forgive you," he said on the way into the screening.
Emily Watson stars opposite Sandler in this tale of a man with seven sisters whose abuse has kept him alone and unable to fall in love. Watson roared onto the Cannes scene in 1996 with her starring role in Breaking the Waves, which won the Jury prize for director Lars von Trier. Not only will she be feted with a dinner in her honor, but she'll also be awarded a special festival trophy.
Adam always has time for his core audience, 8-year-old boys. At one point, in the middle of the Palais, he stopped his entourage (many of whom he's known since his days at NYU) to have his picture taken with one lucky local kid. Sandler's next stop is the set! After tonight's party, the jester jets off to LA, where he's shooting his next movie, Anger Management. He'll have to work around his co-star Jack Nicholson's schedule because he, too, is expected on La Croisette in a few days with his film, About Schmidt.
The Sand Man (as Adam is sometimes called by his friends) is so tan and relaxed he must be having a major effect on his other co-star who's also here, Philip Seymour Hoffman. The brooding character actor, wearing his blond locks in a very mod haircut, is uncharacteristically bon vivant. He's a natural pouter for the lens.
As is Chloe Sevigny, who likes to throw dark, come-hither/don't-touch-me looks at the paparazzi as her baby-blue eyes pierce the crowd. Today is spectacularly sunny, so maybe she's just squinting.
Chloe's doubling her duties in the Palais. She co-stars with Gina Gershon in the sexy sci-fi thriller Demonlover, which alternates between what seems like reality and into a fantastic Japanese anime 3-D digital universe. Her other movie is Ten Minutes Older--the Trumpet, an inventive piece of cinema in which several master directors, including Spike Lee, Wim Wenders, and Jim Jarmusch, have 10 minutes of complete artistic freedom to bring their own interpretation of time to the silver screen.
Cannes is definitely one place where it would be fun toreally play with time and be three places at once. It is impossible to hit every party! One starlet made the very difficult choice to attend a bash onboard a yacht, knowing it meant she would be stuck at sea for the party's duration, so she used the cell to call her land-locked friends at other parties at cabanas around town. Ah, technology!