Dec 25, 2007

Sweeney Odd

Again, I wish I hadn't read A.O. Scott's completely exaggerated review. If I hadn't perhaps the fountains of blood would have shocked me. As it was, I expected them. If I hadn't perhaps I, like him, would have nightmares after watching this film. He must be a very sensitive man. With the amount of violence and gore American audiences have for breakfast, lunch and dinner I doubt that anybody except the very impressionable will have trouble going to sleep over this film. There is indeed a lot of blood, but it looks fake (too orange, too bright) and it looks way over the top, and the fact that someone is singing while throats are being slit somehow helps mitigate the horror.
I enjoyed the movie, but mostly because I enjoyed the music and the lyrics. I applaud the decision of bringing this quirky musical to the screen, because it isn't exactly The Sound of Music. But there are certain things that did not work for me at all. Helena Bonham Carter is a fantastic actress and she does a great job here, but she is not right for the role. First, her pleasant voice is extremely thin, and this particular score requires a much more potent voice that will not get drowned by the rich, powerful orchestrations. But the main problem is the concept of the character of Mrs. Lovett. I was 14 years old when I saw Angela Lansbury on Broadway, and as soon as I saw Bonham Carter, Lansbury's performance came back to me as clear as day. She was a vulgar, loud, earthy, feisty cockney harridan, not a dainty Victorian beauty who can't bake a meat pie. She was full of life, and shockingly, of love, and had the film version more of that brashness, her love for Sweeney Todd would have been more surprising and more poignant. As it is, it's conventional and watered down. This is my biggest problem with the film.
Johnny Depp also doesn't have a particularly rousing voice; but his performance is fantastic and he is believable in the role of a haunted man. He is a great movie star and he expresses much with very little, in this case, much pain. It is a thrill to watch him sing. I may be nuts, but in several instances it seemed to me that the lips of the actors singing were out of sync by a hair, which may mean that their voices were added or sweetened later.
Fortunately, there is Alan Rickman as evil Judge Turpin, and his slimy sidekick Beadle Bamford, played by the always magnificent Timothy Spall, and there is Sacha Baron Cohen in a wonderful turn as Signor Pirelli, a rival barber. Alan Rickman could read me the phone book with his buttery, velvety, delicious speaking voice and I would swoon.
All in all, Sweeney Todd is enjoyable but flawed and not in an unimportant way. For me the biggest thrill was to rediscover the dark wit and the power of the original songs.

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