After watching Tarsem Singh’s (Immortals, The Cell) retelling of the beloved Snow White fairy tale two things were running through my mind. One was that Tarsem Singh makes films that are beautiful to look at but is not the greatest storyteller and that Julia Roberts has not made a decent film in a while. As for Roberts I think her last good film was Closer and that came out in 2004. Before that was her Oscar turn in Erin Brockovich. Two good films in a decade. Two good films out of twenty! Eight years since your last good movie is forever in Hollywood time. She really should be a forgotten woman despite the fact that she was America’s sweetheart for a time and is an Oscar winner. Not only does she continue to be turned to to carry films, but she also still commands huge salaries.
I won’t bore you all with a rehashing of a story that everyone knows already. There are some slight variations on the original, but all the vital elements (mirror, apple, magic, 7 dwarfs, etc) are all there.
Superficially the film is a winner in that it looks marvelous. The colours, the sets and the costumes are all amazing. If the film was a good one the visuals would just add to the quality of the picture. Sadly that is not the case. The film was supposed to be a fresh interpretation of the tale of the girl who was the fairest in the land. Less dark and more tongue in cheek. Jokes fell flat. Even the usually dependable for a chuckle Nathan Lane floundered.
Julia Roberts is out of her league with this role and it is too bad because in the hands of a more skilled actress it would have been a fun romp. The character is all over-the-top madness and insecurities about beauty and aging. The evil stepmother has traditionally been a role that has been fun for female actresses. Somehow it just doesn’t work in this case. Julia Roberts looks like she is having a fun time, but I wasn’t. To start with Roberts’ British accent is the worst since…well, I don’t know what. She should have just dropped it completely. Maybe I can give her the benefit of the doubt by allowing that she might have realized the poor quality and incoherence of the script and just be guilty of trying too hard to rescue a sinking ship.
Since that was a disaster I turned to the next most important character, Snow White (Lily Collins – The Blind Side, Abduction). Even there I was disappointed. Collins’ Snow White was so blah that it would have been easier to overlook her if not for her crazy dark and bushy eyebrows. Though I was somewhat distracted by her faint Audrey Hepburn quality. She played the fairest in the land who could have also won the prize for most boring. Maybe in this case Snow White meant the girl who faded into the background…hence the white part.
Incredibly, I do think come next Oscar season that this film will earn at least one nomination. That will be for costume designer Eiko Ishioka (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Immortals), who tragically died this past January. Each costume and dress is a work of art. They definitely breathe some much needed life into the film.