By Gary Murray
Starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane
Written by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller
Based on the tale by the Brothers Grimm
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Running time 106 min
MPAA Rating PG 13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Julie Roberts was called ‘American’s Sweetheart’ for many years. With a winning smile and indefinable charms, she showed that she could win fans of both sexes. From Pretty Woman to Notting Hill, she has generated billions in box office. As she has developed as an actress, Julia has changed from leading lady to strong character performer. Her latest is a wicked comedy called Mirror, Mirror.
Mirror, Mirror is the re-telling of the Snow White tale done from the point of view of the evil queen. She is played more as a delusional victim, a misunderstood ruler with a giant inferiority complex. When the King disappears, she takes over the role of running the country and being the ward for princess Snow White (Lily Collins). Snow is a delicate flower who has been kept in the walls of the castle for years.
As our future monarch gets older, so does the Queen. She has been using dark magic to keep the threads of rule taunt and these threads are showing signs of wear. She is warned by the magic mirror (a reflection of Roberts) that the continued use of these dire portents could lead to unseen disasters.
Snow is told that the kingdom has been mismanaged by the Queen and the people are unhappy. As the young woman sneaks out to find out for herself, she runs into the Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who has recently been robbed by a group of seven little people wearing stilts. He weaves a tall tale of giants to save his honor.
The Queen’s aide Brighton (Nathan Lane) is tasked to kill Snow White and make sure that the Queen remains in power. Anyone who knows the story knows that Snow White is not killed and befriended by those little people. Mirror, Mirror takes the Grimm Fairy Tale and twists it on its ear, just to give the audience surprises along the way but still traveling down the familiar path.
This is just a beautiful film to look at. The costumes and sets are festive and bright with colors that just off the screen. The camera is framed as if every moment were to be part of a master painting, full of captivating details. The entire production of Mirror, Mirror is simply put a feast for the eyes. The crafts people who designed every aspect of the production should be commended.
At times, the film feels like a cross between one of those ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ from Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Princess Bride. It is whimsical and winsome, all the while being a bit cheeky. It tries to be a family motion picture in the grand tradition of Disney while thumbing its collective nose at the prospect of being anything more than a fan-boy farce. Director Tarsem Singh does a fine job on the tightrope between the two extremes and never wavers to either extreme.
Even though Singh does a great workman job, I would love to have seen a more visionary director take on this project. The film is stunning but all the time one wonders what a helmsmen like Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton would have done with the material. It is the type of a movie either would have done and probably done better. Then again, they would have tripled the budget in their excesses.
Mirror, Mirror should make Lily Collins a household name. The young woman commands every scene she is in. Over and over, she shows that is the newest and brightest star in the Hollywood. She handles emotional scenes with the same deft charm that she handles a sword. Mirror, Mirror is going to put her on the A-list just as Steel Magnolias did for someone decades ago.
Julia Roberts probably hasn’t had this much fun with a role in many years. It has always been said that playing bad is always the best role for an actress and this is the best of both worlds—a leading role that is as juicy as it is evil. Chewing scenery is what the performance demands and we are given it with a pinch of salt.
To sum up, Mirror, Mirror is a treat and a joy. While not the best film ever, it is a solid entertainment that will delight young and old of both sexes. It is a cinematic treat and a great way to spend the afternoon.