Impeccably costumed Angelina Jolie offers satisfying alternate history on ‘Sleeping Beauty.’
By Gina Scialabba
I know critics are trashing Disney’s newest live-action fairy tale “Maleficent.” From what movie reviewers assail as a terrible story line, to the poor CGI effects, there’s very little love out there for this revisited “once upon a time” fable.
Despite all the bad reviews, I liked it for one big reason: Angelina Jolie. Her performance is magnificent. She brings new depth to the villainous ‘Sleeping Beauty’ sorceress.
From the moment she stepped onto the screen, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jolie with her carefully crafted prosthetic check bones, and horns made of python and fish skin, with some very fine leather. (Where can I get a set of those?) She plays just the right amount of good and evil.
So, what is this movie all about? Director Robert Stromberg explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone.
It’s a movie about redemption from the evil. A rehabilitation of the wicked. It provides renewed life for one of the most misunderstood villains in all the fairy tale cannon.
But really, what is a villain? We all know bad people. They aren’t just maligned. Everyone and everything is a combination of light and dark.
Like Gregory Maguire’s breathtaking New York Times bestseller “Wicked” which brought us the life and times of the “Wicked Witch of the West,” here too, we see a villain re-imagined.
Maleficent is betrayed, beaten down and figuratively raped by a man she thought loved her, King Stephan. She has good cause to be a little upset.
The movie follows the recent trend in pop culture of taking fairy tales and giving them a modern spin. Most have not been done particularly well: Oz the Great and Powerful,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
In retelling this classic fable, the story could have easily dipped into overt sexism.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” We’ve all heard that line at some point in our lives. It’s a phrase that loosely stems from a long-ago, 17th century observation that women pursue and indulge in revenge in higher rates than men. That as a culture, when people think of vengeance they associate it with angry, emotionally uncontrollable women. Who knows what they may do?
Simply put: No anger is worse than that of a jilted woman, as horribly sexist as that may be
It’s like Bill O’Reilly recently saying a woman can’t be a leader of the free world because of a ‘gender deficiency.’ Some things really have no basis in fact or reality.
The good news is that director Robert Stromberg doesn’t go down that route.
It’s much more complex than simply being angry at a lover’s betrayal. She isn’t just a jealous, vengeful villainess. Maleficent isn’t motivated mainly by a broken heart and finding a man to love her.
To be clear, Maleficent does she terrible things. She cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant, Aurora. But this movie strikes to the heart of human experience. King Stefan, a man she thought loved her, cuts off Malificient’s wings. The wound runs deep.
Somehow after years of anger and hostility, Maleficent learns what it means to love someone, just not a man. It’s Aurora that eventually helps her reconcile her past.
This highlights the narrative power about women finding motivation and redemption through each other.
Should you go? Yes, ignore the critics. Forget everything you know about “Sleeping Beauty.” True love’s first kiss isn’t going save anyone here. It’s about finding strength and healing through simple human interaction.
If you go……
Run Time: 97 Minutes
Opening Date: 29 May 2014
Directed by Robert Stromberg