Newest Review: ... enough. For the most part, there is more here - Mirror Mirror is well-cast, generally well-scripted and after a so-so start, picks up eno... more
The Fairest Film of All
Mirror, Mirror (DVD)
Member Name: Puggers
Mirror, Mirror (DVD)
Advantages: Beautifully filmed, full of invention and creativity.
Disadvantages: A little slow to get going.
It sometimes feels like you've seen a completely different film to everyone else; despite a generally underwhelmed reaction to this movie, I had high hopes - and they were wholly justified. Everyone's familiar with the story of Snow White, but the director of this project may be less well-known. Tarsem Singh is, as every member of the cast unfailingly gushes in the extras, a visionary director with an eye for visual flair. Actually, that's an understatement; visuals are just about everything in his films. Anyone who's watched The Fall (and if you haven't, you might want to correct that) will have witnessed the jaw-dropping beauty he manages to create on-screen. That trend continues here, and you won't have seen a better-looking film this year.
Of course, beauty isn't everything - a moral that the antagonist of this story might have done well to heed, such is her infamous vanity. There's got to be more to a film than the visuals; Avatar proved that well enough. For the most part, there is more here - Mirror Mirror is well-cast, generally well-scripted and after a so-so start, picks up enough momentum to keep things moving during its two-hour duration. More than that, it's also done with a keen sense of humour that's suitably black - the best fairy tales should after all be fairly dark affairs.
Julia Roberts kicks things off as the acerbic Queen who keeps Snow White locked in her tower, having wormed her way into the King's affections some years back before disposing of Snow's father. This, she insists, is her story - and Roberts is well capable of carrying the burden of the narrative, making for a agreeably vindictive villain. Generally things run as in the story with which we are familiar, with Lily Collins' Snow White incurring the wrath of the Queen and being flung into the woods, where she makes the acquaintance of a band of little people.
There are a number of departures from the version we're most familiar with - which is probably the Disney story rather than the Grimm original - but they're largely for the better, steering the film away from cliche and schmaltz and in a darker, more inventive - and more entertaining - direction. The twist on the iconic "Mirror, mirror ..." scenes are wonderfully realised, and a distinct improvement on the familiar interpretation. In fact, throughout the film there are little touches and riffs on the old formula that make things so much more engaging and memorable. I loved the introduction of the dwarves, which felt like something Pythonesque with a hint of A Clockwork Orange. Tarsem seems to have tapped right into the vein of black, lopsided humour-with-a-moral that should run through every fairy tale, and he allows this magic to spill forth time and again.
The costume design is simply phenomenal - again, I'm praising the looks of the film over its contents, but the outfits the characters wear are so inventive and wildly outrageous, they need to be lauded. There's something of Tim Burton's style here, but the gothic slant has become something much more colourful, rich and decadent. It's quite brilliant.
To try to steer back towards substance rather than style, it's worth commenting on Lily Collins; an interesting choice for the central role. If it sounds insulting to say that she's not a classic beauty, it's not supposed to be - but it has to be a fairly onerous task to depict the fairest of them all. She's certainly striking, though, with her dark hair and thick Hispanic eyebrows, and suits the look of the film perfectly. As an actress, she's excellent, leading the line with panache and charisma, making for a strong-willed, thoroughly likeable Snow.
There's little to criticise about the film in my eyes - it starts a little slowly, and it feels like the dialogue gets crisper, snappier and more believable as the film goes on - but these are small flaws that are easy to forgive in light of how well the film ultimately comes together. Tarsem is rightly praised for his aesthetic achievements, but for me this film demonstrates that he's got plenty of substance to back up the considerable style.
Summary: The perfect fairy tale.