Cast: Julia Roberts,Lily Collins,Armie Hammer
Director: Tarsem Singh
Indian Express Ratings:***
SNOW White re-imagined as a romance,the Queen as a woman desperate for a suitor,the Prince as a helpless guy needing rescue,and the Princess as a woman capable of spunk and some valour. India-born Tarsem Singh has fun with his version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,letting us both mock and sympathise with a rapidly ageing Queen hanging on to her youth and way of life,as a blossoming princess threatens to take all away.
He lets his imagination and colours run wild,fashioning the palace as a guitar perched on a cliff,and the famous mirror as a gateway to the netherworld. Here the Queen converses with her reflection,selling her soul quite the Dorian Gray way for the sake of her vanity. Roberts’s Queen is proud about her looks but also conscious of the ridiculous lengths she is ready to go to keep them,including being covered in bird shit and bitten by bees. Hollywood’s Pretty Woman does a neat job of being both the woman staring at the looking glass and the one looking back.
It’s this tone that Mirror Mirror strives for and largely achieves. It’s very conscious of the fact of being a fairy tale and equally conscious of it being rooted in some real world. So,if the impossibly elaborate costumes and the set pieces are like painted photographs in a fairy tale book,there is a really dark sequence of the Queen’s alter-ego setting puppets after the dwarfs. If its prince (Hammer) is a little over the top,it hints at suppressed desire and sexual awareness in the Queen and the young Snow (Collins). If its princess is blemishless innocence at the beginning,she is acutely conscious of her triumph at the end.
The disappointment is the over-emphasis on the listless romance and the smallness of the woods,which look no bigger than a few small square feet of snow. The entire action happens there,from the first time the prince and Snow meet after he has been strung upside down,without clothes,in the forest,to the end when they together slay a beast there. Considering how many times Hammer appears unclothed in the snow,you can’t help feeling sorry for the poor lad. And he isn’t that hot — for all the Queen’s lusting after him.
Above all this is a triumph of the dwarfs — Butcher,Grimm,Grub,Half-Pint,Wolf,Napoleon,Chuck,all unaffected and charming — and of Roberts. She is funny and pathetic,charming and cruel,diva and the devil,beautiful and the bored. Is she the fairest of them all? Don’t think she has to try.