Monday, 24 December 2012


“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.” - Khalil Gibran

Yesterday we watched the Tarsem Singh 2012 movie “Mirror, Mirror”  starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer. We had heard quite conflicting reports about this, some very good some very bad. It appears that the movie has been a rather controversial one generating some extremely opposite reactions. It is a essentially a “fractured fairy-tale” as retold by Marc Klein and Jason Keller   (screenplay), and Melisa Wallack   (screen story). It joins the spate of other fairy tales that have been filmed, including Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Puss-in-Boots, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc, etc. Perhaps the most akin to this film is the other 2012 adaptation of the same fairy tale, “Snow White and the HUntsman", this being a darker and more “heroic” version when compared to the light-hearted “Mirror, Mirror”. One should not forget, however, the classic 1937 Disney version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

We saw the film and were in two minds about it. This was not the familiar Snow White fairy tale. It was an updated, post-feminist tale where the hero is a heroine and where the Prince is quite an ineffectual toy-boy. The wicked stepmother is vain and conceited but is not really wicked, nor bewitchingly beautiful nor is she transformed into the epitome of ugliness when she does change. The dwarfs are brigands and highwaymen, the kingdom has financial difficulties and the household staff are saccharine sweet, while the courtiers suitably scatty.  It is a major reworking of the Snow White tale and even the apple got in only by the skin of its teeth in the last reel.

As is the case with many other Tarsem Singh movies, the visuals in this film are stunning, as are the costumes. Both the sets and the CGIs are quite amazing and there is a lot of fun that was had by the wardrobe designers and the prop people. However, compared to Singh’s “The Fall”, this movie is several degrees inferior. Nevertheless, “Mirror, Mirror” is a visual feast and the colours, sets, costumes and compute effects are wonderful.

Julia Roberts must have enjoyed making this film as she is quite at ease and delivers her lines with bravado and is clearly amused by the whole nonsensical goings-on. Lily Collins is the real star of the show, playing the perfect mix of both the “traditional” and “modern” fairy tale princess. She is a wonderful ingénue, although her characterisation as the “fairest in the land” with the kind of Frida Kahlo eyebrows she sports would only convince some members of the audience. The Prince in the face of Armie Hammer is suitably gauche and vain and he manages to make something of his relatively slight role. The supporting cast wears a little thin at times, although Nathan Lane does a good job camping it up as Brighton, the Queen’s right-hand-man.

As far as the negatives of the film are concerned, they are mainly the rather cheesy and often forced comedy, and the plot. Many of the comedic lines will elicit a chuckle or a groan, depending on the degree of your sophistication. There are a couple of good gags but this is not a film to belly-laugh over. While the Snow White tale is more-or-less adhered to, some of the more iconic parts of the story are lacking. Yes, Disney has spoilt this film for us…

It is a good light-weight film to watch, kids will probably like it more than adults. The romantic comedy is pushed a little and there are enough innuendos there to make the mummies and daddies giggle while the kids grin. It is adhering to a Hollywood stock formula and Tarsem Singh’s direction has not salvaged the film in this respect. Watch it and see for yourself.

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