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 for the next 12 days. Check in every day to get the latest!
May 15, 2002 -- It really was the Cannes before the storm as festival staffers put the finishing touches on their preparations for the 55th Cannes Film Festival. Saws buzzed, generators whirred, brooms swished. Cameramen rehearsed their swooping aerial shots over and over. Never ones to be hurried at beautifying, the French workmen didn't begin work on the famous steps of The Palais until yesterday! And by this morning they'd barely covered the banisters in the familiar and fabulous red.
The Jury, who gets to decide the big winner at the end of the festival, arrived early. Director David Lynch, of Mulholland Drive fame, heads the Jury of the Competition this year, along with Sharon Stone and others. The Cannes Selection Committee sat through 2,281 films, including 939 features and 1,342 shorts to come up with their 55 selections.
All day the energy rose as the sun baked the growing throngs of fans who brought folding chairs and created the best seats in the house in front of The Palais. Some of them arrived 12 hours in advance. Even the fans are dressed to the max, as they watch producers, journalists and barely dressed starlets-in-the-making networking in all different languages.
One of the festival's most celebrated auteurs, Woody Allen, opens the Festival. Beginning at the end is very popular these days, so it makes sense that Cannes opens withis his Hollywood Ending and closes in 12 days with French director Claude Lelouche's And Now…Ladies and Gentlemen.
Then suddenly it's time! It's a bit before 7 p.m. and the sun is still shining brigh as that once-in-a-lifetime moment begins. The music swells, the paparazzi shout as their camera flashbulbs explode nonstop. The crowd roars as Debra Messing, Tiffani Thiessen, Treat Williams, Barney Cheng and Jodie Markell join Woody (avec wife, Soon Yi) in their finery as they glide over the Palais steps transformed by red carpet and enter
the huge theater where they will enjoy this comedy about a comeback director before whisking off to the after-hours, invitation-only beach party at the fancy Carleton Hotel.
There is so much to look forward to over the next 12 days. For the very first time digital technology makes its debut in Cannes with a showing of George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese will show 20 minutes of their wildly anticipated Gangs of New York. (Scorsese, that multitasking director, will also serve as President of the Short Films Competition.)
Other stars planning to spend a little time here are Cameron Diaz, Adam Sandler, Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Irons, Rosanna and Patricia Arquette and Antonio Banderas, just to name a few!
And who knows what will be added to the mix? Earlier today a green convertible VW Beetle passed us on the main drag, the Croissette, with a transvestite in a matching green wig behind the wheel, followed by a pink convertible bug driven by a pink-wigged transvestite.
Why? That is never the question to ask in Cannes.