Tristran Thorne (Charlie Cox – Casanova, The Merchant of Venice – 2004) has got it bad for the town beauty, Victoria (Sienna Miller – Alfie – 2004, The Factory Girl), who changes her mind about him as often as she changes her underwear. Despite the fact that she is engaged to Humphrey (Henry Cavill – The Count of Monte Cristo – 2002, Tristan + Isolde), Tristran still believes he has a chance with her.
Desperate, Tristan promises to give her the gift of a star in order to show his undying devotion to her. He now sets out on a journey in order to find said star. The trip takes him out of human realm and into that of the supernatural and there he finds a fallen star whose name is Yvaine (Claire Danes – The Family Stone, The Hours).
Tristran is not the only one with his eye on Yvaine as there is a coven of evil witches led by the oldest sister Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer – The Fabulous Baker Boys, Hairspray). Lamia and her sisters want Yvaine in order to cut out her heart and eat it so that they may prolong their youth. Having gotten to her first, Tristran claims Yvaine as his own and attaches a silver chain to her.
As Tristran and Yvaine attempt to go to his home they encounter all types of odd characters and dangers. For example, there is the women's clothes wearing and poetry nut, the ruthless pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro – Ronin, Heat) and a threesome of princes, who are accompanied by their four dead siblings, sent by the evil Lord Stormhold (Peter O'Toole – Lawrence of Arabia, Venus) who need the star in order to gain control of their throne.
This is a film that many will compare to other fairy tale films such as "The Princess Bride", but I think that it is an unfair categorization. The film is more of the odd variety of fairy tale along the lines of a Terry Gilliam film. While the story and feel of the film does have something old-fashioned about it it most certainly is a 'modern' film. Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) has made an old-fashioned story with a modern hand. There are plenty of scenes that use CGI and were shot in front of blue screens. It is a fairy tale but definitely one aimed at an adult audience.
Several things work within the film and several do not. First, the acting of veterans Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer is wonderful. They are great in their roles and show a deft touch with broad comedy. Pfeiffer is especially great. She has been away from the big screen for awhile and reminds us of her large talent in this film. She is evil, vain and we love her. You end up wanting the story to be about this nasty witch. The whole storyline about Lamia and her sisters willing to do anything to remain beautiful is full of commentary about women today. How we will diet, Botox and plastic surgery ourselves silly in order to remain young and beautiful is shown to be pathetically desperate. Pfeiffer is up on the screen depicting every female actress's nightmare – growing old in the harsh industry. Secondly, the chemistry between Cox and Claire Danes is palpable and the story works because of it. Where it is most successful is that it is a film that sees what it is (fantasy) and does not try to be too serious.
What does not work in the film is the somewhat gaping holes in the story and the fact that it slows down to a snail's pace in the middle. If we are going to be picky, Claire Danes attempt at a British accent is awful – making Madonna's odd linguistic transformation after her marriage to Guy Ritchie sound authentic. This is an infamously difficult genre and Vaughn demonstrates himself capable. All in all it is an enjoyable film that those adults who want fantasy but feel Harry Potter is too young for them should find themselves enjoying.
-Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust
-Nothing is True…