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.
Television's depiction of marriage has changed significantly since The Dick Van Dyke Show's Rob and Laura Petrie ruled the small screen. Since you're reading this article, I'll assume your life is as encompassed by television as mine is, so I won't bother explaining what they were like. But in brief, they got along swimmingly. However, today's TV shows don't exactly afford the same luxuries to their wedded couples. Perhaps it's allegorical. Maybe it's a heightened sophistication of art. It could be that we're all just really bitter now. But TV marriages are a lot rockier these days. As such, we've got a few shining (embittered) examples.
The Couple in Question: Walt & Skylar
Relationship Status: Separated
What Went Wrong: I may be just grasping at straws here, but I'd say it was the meth. Beyond that, though, Walter White's Achilles heel is his pride. It's what it's what ruined his friendship with his college roommate Elliot; it's what ate him from the inside out when he had to accept a job at a car wash in order to support his family financially; and it's what kept him from telling anyone about his disease or from pursuing treatment. Further than that, it's what is getting him into a deeper hole with his newest employer. But back to his marriage: Walt seems to place his own self-image above even his love for his family. He refused to accept handouts from in-laws Marie and Hank when they would have been a far saner choice to dealing meth, but he needed to be the man. This has kept him at a distance from Skylar since before the events of the series began. However, it was ultimately his involvement in the drug trade (not to mention his countless lies about it) that broke up his marriage. Although, I'd be remiss if I didn't say how much I truly, adamantly and whole-heartedly hate Skylar.
The Couple in Question: Hank and Marie
Relationship Status: Strained
What Is Going Wrong: Ever since Hank was shot (you can also chalk that one up to Walt), things have turned sour in regard to his relationship with Marie. The recuperating Hank is extremely impatient with his wife's attentive nature, her inability to refer to his prized minerals as such ("Ordering another rock?"), and her zealous encouragement. Marie, at last, seems to be allowing Hank to break her—the final moments of "Thirty-Eight Snub," which aired this past Sunday, showed that her patience with the growling, unkind man her husband has been this season is slipping. I can't predict just yet that their marriage will necessarily face any major catastrophes...but it's not as if Vince Gilligan offers us much in the vein of "light drama."
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Couple in Question: Larry & Cheryl
Relationship Status: Divorced
What Went Wrong: Cheryl David played the impossibly patient Job figure to her husband's endless antics. Devoted boundlessly to their marriage, she even agreed to let Larry have an affair on their tenth wedding anniversary in order to convince him to marry her. So why, after over fifteen years, does their marriage fail? Simply, the same reason it’s difficult to watch more than two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm in one sitting. From a distance, and in small doses, Larry David is a phenomenon of entertainment. He could even be described as poignant and philosophic. But being married to this individual (and I’m only talking about the character—I reserve none of these presumptions about the man himself, whom I’ve heard is actually quite the gentleman) for fifteen-plus years, as Cheryl was, would be akin to eating sandpaper with every meal.
The Couple in Question: Celia & Dean
Relationship Status: Loveless
What Went Wrong: What went right? It is tradition in comedy to have a secondary married couple that can never stop bickering: Fred and Ethyl Mertz (I Love Lucy), Gladys and Abner Kravitz (Green Acres), Stanley and Helen Roper (Three's Company), Frank and Marie Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond); something common among all of these pairs is that it is made evident that, despite their hostility, they truly do love one another. Celia and Dean, it seems, do not. They're vindictive, manipulative, spiteful, unfaithful... The reasons they got married in the first place are hardly decipherable, beyond the assumption of entirely superficial reasons: presumably, Celia married Dean for the financial luxury, and Dean married Celia for the sexual luxury.
The Walking Dead
The Couple in Question: Rick & Lori
Relationship Status: In trouble (although Rick may not know it yet)
What Is Going Wrong: Although the Grimes' marriage is not over yet (and doesn't necessarily promise to ever be), the trouble began when Lori assumed Rick was dead. She fell into the arms of Rick's best friend Shane for comfort, and the two became romantically entangled. Once Rick shows up, however, Lori cut things off with Shane. But clearly, as of the Season One finale, this whole matter is far from put to bed. Shane is not okay with this new situation, and it's clear that Lori might not be entirely happy with it either.
The Couple in Question: Louie & Louie's unseen ex-wife
Relationship Status: Divorced
What Went Wrong: It is never made clear; so little do we know about Louie's life that we cannot be sure whether his insuperably negative attitude contributed to his divorce, or if it the ex inspired said bitterness. But we know that Louie is not on particularly good terms with her; we know that Louie's sister Gretchen despised her; and we know—because she told us, and him—that Louie's younger daughter prefers her.
The Big C
The Couple in Question: Cathy and Paul
Relationship Status: All patched up
What Went Wrong: After being diagnosed with cancer, Cathy went nuts. She threw Paul out of the house and started burning furniture. Paul, having no idea why his wife was acting this way, took the opportunity to cheat on her with the Rugby Slut (a former schoolmate who likes to sleep with amateur rugby players: a category into which Paul just makes it). Cathy has her own affair with an alluring-accented painter in the form of Idris Elba. Their affairs and separation don't last a second longer than Cathy's secrecy about her disease, however. Once she reveals that she has cancer, Paul immediately forgives her and vows to make up his own misdeeds to her. Since then, he has been obsessively devoted to Cathy, their marriage, and her illness. So, this is one story that actually ends happily! ...Except for the melanoma.
Parks and Recreation
The Couples in Question: Ron & Tammies
Relationship Status: Divorced, three times total (once from Tammy 1, twice from Tammy 2)
What Went Wrong: Ron Swanson has two ex-wives, which, straight from the moustachioed horse's mouth, are "both named Tammy, both bitches." Ron Swanson enjoys a "strong, salt-of-the-earth, self-possessed woman at the top of her field." One could see how this led him to fall for Tammy 2, who is nothing if not empowered. However, she's also a psychopath. She manipulates Ron even after their marriage...although, it seems as though Ron's second divorce with Tammy 2 (after a week-long, if it even reached that, explosion of passion that involved a wedding ceremony, breaking-and-entering, and a vicious affront to Ron's Swanson Pyramid of Greatness-approved haircut) might have cemented the idea in his head that she is unadulterated evil. She does, after all, work for the library. Tammy 1 is an even scarier situation: we have yet to meet her, but the mere mention that she was in the building sent the seemingly fearless sociopath Tammy 2 running for her life. So what went wrong? Ron married the devil incarnate. Three times.
The Couples in Question: Shirley, Chang, Pierce (sevenfold), and the parents of Jeff, Abed, Annie and possibly Troy
Relationship Statuses: All divorced, though Shirley and her husband have rekindled
What Went Wrong: Either Dan Harmon harbors some kind of resentment towards the institution of marriage, or this is some kind of carefully woven and ingenious interconnecting story point that will eventually encompass each of the characters (I assume the latter, as Community always impresses me beyond my wildest expectations). In any event, here are the specifics:
Shirley's ex-ex was unfaithful, so she left him. However, Christians forgive.Chang was unfaithful to his wife (with Shirley...see? Already there's interconnectivity!); the two were already having problems due to a diminished frequency of salsa dancing.Pierce is a bigoted, narcissistic buffoon (who I really hope rejoins the study group in Season 3 after an immaculately ironic coming-of-age arc).Now for the parents...Jeff's dad was a physical an emotionally abusive "two-bit conman" who ran out on the family when Jeff was still young.Abed's father "has an angry energy, but not like angry at America—just angry at [Abed's] mom for leaving him, although she did leave because he was angry, and he is angry because she's American."It's unknown what caused the divorce between Annie's parents. However, from her anecdotal interjections, one can surmise that neither one was a particularly supportive parent, and therefore they were probably both pretty crappy spouses, too.What happened with Troy's parents is ambiguous. He has never explicitly made mention of a divorce, even when Abed and Annie were sharing stories of their own parents splitting in Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas, but he has spoken about his dad having a girlfriend in the present. Tragically, this could mean that his mother has passed, but Troy does sporadically refer to his mother with a tone suggesting that she is still alive. Let's stay optimistic.
These are just scraping the surface; for better or worse, there are plenty of other examples on TV today. Let's hear what you can come up with, so we can all lament and wallow together.