{film} mirror mirror

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Not even half-way through the film and I knew I would have to see Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror (2012) again. Why? The costumes and sets. I found myself distracted—in a good way. The silliness of story was a bonus. The film experience felt like a taste of theater, an odd juxtaposition in a dollar theater with an audience running the gamut in age and summer wear; and especially weird with that woman (at my right shoulder) who couldn’t seem to open her bag of candy.

Eiko Ishioka, visionary, costuming Mirror Mirror.

The costume design is by the late Eiko Ishioka (who died too young in January). It is a sadder world without Ishioka designing in it. She has more than a few breathtaking moments in Mirror Mirror. With how costuming helps create the narrative, adding depth to characterization and setting, you could pretty much mute the film and allow the costumes and their characters’ purportment man the script alone.

If you go in with Disney’s adaptation of the tale of Snow White in mind, you will be fine. It is anticipated. Anticipate a criticism of beauty vs. substance and expectation. Aphorisms abound amidst the very tongue-in-cheek scripting. We aren’t left wondering where we come to know the things we know about Ideal Beauty (among other things, like age). I do not think many anticipated silly (even in a PG film). They probably hadn’t seen The Fall, or its restraint. Tarsem does not restrain himself here—and I love silliness. It’s one of my favorite forms of laughter. And it certainly takes the edge off the derisive, toward which the story is easily prone to veer; derisive or sappy and Tarsem tries hard to avoid either. In choosing the stage and whimsy over gritty realism, Tarsem does not eschew a strong moral message. As readers/fans of fantasy understand, taking the edge off realism does not remove the sting of criticism, let alone hide it. Cleverness and becoming one’s own fully capable and lovely self is the hero of the day. Borrowing from other sources and debting oneself to vanity and consumption will not only prematurely age you.

just when the dresses couldn’t get more amazing… and the scene she walks into has some of the most marvelous undergarments.

While the reasons to see the film are the set and costumes, the acting is not too painful either. I loved watching Julia Roberts have fun in the role as Queen. And while I had a hard time not calling up images of a certain meerkat, Nathan Lane was humorous as usual. Armie Hammer as the Prince: he goes from goof-ball to sultry (can a man be referred to as sultry) in a heartbeat. The Prince role is so well cast, so well played. The best scenes were the ones he and/or Julia occupied. This is not to say that Lily Collins as Snow White wasn’t picture perfect. The film again, I think, looks to draw on cultural cache with Collins. Doesn’t she bring Audrey Hepburn to mind? Delicate, elegant, and graceful, and all spitfire waiting to be unleashed?—because that is Snow White; Snow White whom had been made insecure by the calculated barbs of the Queen, but whom has all the resources just waiting for the right antidote to the Queen’s poisons. The antidote comes in the form of the kitchen staff, who encourage a fateful outing to the village, and the seven dwarfs in the forest.

Mark Povinelli (Half Pint), Martin Klebba (Butcher), Jordan Prenitce (Napoleon), Danny Woodburn (Grimm),  Ronald Lee Clark (Chuckles), Joe Gnoffo (Grub), Sebastian Saraceno (Wolf)

Mirror Mirror’s take on the dwarfs is a nice one, although I was a bit concerned. Theirs was a costuming choice I was initially repulsed by. The Village People (ala “YMCA”) flitted across the mental screen. The lost boys of Peter Pan’s Neverland followed a short time after. I have to admit both references work in light of what we come to learn about the bandits in the woods. The men fulfilled different job positions in the village until a proclamation by the Queen expelled them from the kingdom for being ugly. They escaped and were lost to the forest to become a bit wild and predatory, robbing passersby. What was trickier for the film was to comment on their status as outsiders, ugly, and made invisible (and more visible using stilts) without reinforcing the ideologies they are used to emphasize. To do so would also undermine their role in the narrative that creates the necessary change for Snow White.

aside yet relevant…Sean and I both had heard Audie Cornish’s NPR: All Things Considered interview with Peter Dinklage the other day. We were first introduced to Dinklage in The Station Agent (2003); many more will recognize Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game  of Thrones. Having the interview in mind while watching the film makes for an interesting viewing experience. I’m still a bit conflicted…and well, I would have to see the film again. Essay, anyone?

the color and shapes of the gown, the sophistication/ingenue, the framing.

The title of the film seems an obvious reference to the “mirror, mirror on the wall” lines we all know and love. It also means something more. It begs to create parallels and dichotomies. Chart, anyone? While Good/Evil is pretty much left alone, traits popularly assigned to each is not—and not unexpectedly. We associate Good with Beauty and Evil with Ugly. The film panders to this before making the switch and thus upsetting the notions. I found ascribing a good work ethic with Beauty versus incurring debt (carelessly) and using short-cuts (magic aka privilege?) with Ugly of interest. I admire the removal of age as a qualifier for beauty and sexuality. Why should the Queen accept the aged Baron’s proposal over the pursuit of a handsome young Prince? Sure, it makes for humor, but there is a bite there. It is hard not to admire (the likable Julia Roberts) the Queen’s drive to create a world based upon her own terms. I mean, isn’t that what we are waiting for Snow White to learn to do? Thus, it comes down to whose terms are based where, and which are based in Good (ethics, cooperation) versus Evil (vanity, greed).

the swan /the peacock, white/red. love the Prince as the white rabbit, so apt.

Stories mirror, characters mirror, and one story is revealed to be another’s (though we find this unsurprising, as does the Queen). What I did find a clever unveiling was that ending as the credit began to roll. The film, directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. has Snow White return the singing and dancing to the kingdom Bollywood-style. The snow melts away and the greater architecture of the palace cannot be ignored (hints were there all along, see image 1). mirror mirror. But what is Tarsem saying in the departures and in the departing musical number? Who is the fairest of them all? And why should Hollywood be excluded from the criticism in its contributions to ideas of beauty and age and good and evil.

The choices of theater and puppetry become more clear.

…I’m still not even half-way through the film or my thoughts on it. This quirky little comedy Tarsem has brought us could be more disarming than initially expected.

Or it could just be a fun little film lovers of costumes and sets and silliness will enjoy.

————-Mirror Mirror (2012)—————-

directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar; based on “Snow White” by Brothers Grimm; story by Melissa Wallack; screenplay by Marc Klein & Jason Keller; music by Alan Menken, cinematography by Brendan Galvin, Editing by Robert Duffy & Nick Moore; produced by Ryan Kavanaugh, Bernie Goldmann, Brett Ratner & Kevin Misher; starring: Lily Collins (Snow White), Julia Roberts (the Queen), Armie Hammer (Prince Alcott), Nathan Lane (Brighton), Sean Bean (the King), Danny Woodburn (Grimm), Martin Klebba (Butcher), Sebastian Saraceno (Wolf), Jordan Prentice (Napoleon), Mark Povinelli (Half Pint), Joe Gnoffo (Grub) & Ronald Lee Clark (Chuckles).

Rated PG, Running Time 106 minutes.

IMDb page. Wiki page. Roger Ebert’s Review.

{images belong to Relativity Media}

—-of course, this fits nicely into the Once Upon a Time Challenge—-

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl V. says:

    I remain a very big fan of The Fall. It is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen from a visual perspective and the story, for this viewer, does great credit to the visuals. I didn’t rush out to the theater to see this one but intend to do so when it comes out on DVD. There is a chance that I’ll just pick it up simply because of the aspects you describe. It just LOOKS amazing. I can’t help but wish, seeing the trailers, that Tarsem Singh would have been allowed to bring Neil Gaiman’s Stardust to the big screen. It could have been something very special.

    We are off to see Snow White and the Hunstman tonight. My daughter wanted us to all go out to a movie and chose that one, not that I’m complaining because it looks interesting. My biggest gripe is that I’m not really a fan of Kristen Stewart. I’m hoping her performance in this film changes my mind as she is not who I would have chosen.

  2. L says:

    I am with you on Kristen Stewart, I hope this film changes my mind, too. am looking forward to seeing it. I hope you enjoy it.

    Tarsem on ‘Stardust’–what a good idea. I think you will find things to like in Mirror Mirror, if nothing else but the spectacle and Tarsem’s sense of humor.

  3. Wow, I love all the reflection on this movie! You got at some things I didn’t even think of. Love the points about parallels, and I did enjoy Julia Roberts’ performance and the comments on age. This one could easily have shifted just a little to become the Evil Queen’s story, instead of Snow White’s–and to some extent it was.

    But reflections aside, as you say, it can also be watched as a silly light movie with amazing costumes–and it’s lovely on that level too!

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