Saturday, December 22, 2007

Attend the Tale

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opened last night, and Jen and I were at the Ziegfeld to see it. I went in somewhat apprehensive but also hopeful, and overall, the movie satisfied.

Johnny Depp is, as almost always, excellent. His voice isn't amazing, but his intensity and acting abilities made up for his somewhat limited range. And, I was very pleased when I realized the talk-singing that dominated the preview was really no where else in the movie. He plays Sweeney with moments of rage but overpowered by sadness and despair. His Sweeney is a man just this side of defeated, kept going only by Mrs. Lovett and his inability to forgive. He makes Sweeney sympathetic but not likable, just as he should be.

Tim Burton's other casting choices were...questionable. I went in with extremely low expectations of Helena Bonham Carter, and she really was the weakest link. I was aggravated that she was cast for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm just totally over her. I think she does the same damn thing all the time. 2) She only ever shows up in movies her boyfriends or husbands direct (Yes, I know this is a slight exaggeration, but it still feels that way). Remember when she was with Kenneth Branagh and she was in Frankenstein, Theory of Flight, and everything else he made? Maybe she should find a part she's right for and actually go on an audition for it, because I'm sad to say that my low expectations really weren't overcome. Her acting was good, actually, and I like the way she played Mrs. Lovett, but she simply could not sing the part. She just doesn't have the voice, and it seems to me that that should be a deal breaker, wife of the director or not.

Sacha Baron Cohen was wonderful. He made one of my historically least favorite characters/parts/songs into a highlight. He really rocked it. Alan Rickman as the evil Judge Turpin was good, though his voice is really nothing amazing. And Timothy Spall as the beadle seemed to be in a different movie all together. Very over the top. And the rest of the cast skewed very, very young. Though that worked in some places (a child Toby, for instance) the lad who played Antony simply wasn't believable as a sailor who'd been all over the world. It's fine to try to create a juxtaposition between Antony and Johanna's innocence and the world weariness of the rest of the characters, but this took it too far.

I thought most of the musical cuts made worked well, though I really did miss The Ballad of Sweeney Todd. They could have played it over the end credits or something. And I wish they would have kept Kiss Me. As it is, Antony and Johanna have no direct interaction, which makes their love affair slightly harder to buy.

It wasn't an unequivocal success for me, but it was pretty good. I liked it and would recommend it.

Small side note: Remember how Christina Ricci's breasts and cleavage were practically characters unto themselves in Sleepy Hollow? Well, the same is going on here. I imagine that a great deal of Burton's directorial notes to both Bonham Carter and Jayne Wisener (Johanna) went something like this: "Deeper breaths! I want to see them HEAVING."


dillon designs said...

Heh--my blog post on this has almost the exact same title. But I left out the heaving, since I correctly assumed you'd have that covered. :o)

anne s. said...

Yes, we definitely need to discuss Sweeney in depth! I pretty much adored it, against all expectations, but I must also agree with some of your reservations (too much goddamn heaving, and I wasn't 100% into the rest of Bonham-Carter either. I just liked her a lot more than I thought I would, and she grew on me as the movie progressed.)

Veronica said...

From a historical perspective, I have to disagree with you about Antony's age. He was portrayed as what, 17 or 18? And in that age, boys could sign onto ships as early as 12 or 13 years old as cabin boys. So at that age, he could feasibly have been sailing for some 5 years or so already, making him more worldly but still young enough to not be jaded like the older characters.

Tori said...

You may be correct, but he felt if not too young (which, really, he did feel, but I'll concede the point) than certainly too naive.

Also, I think he looks like the love child of Jon Bon Jovi and Claire Danes.