Rob Marshall was tasked with re-creating the magnificence of Stephen Sondheim on the big screen, and I can only imagine the pressure to be mounting. But, with an ensemble cast, including the wonder of Meryl Streep, the classic Brothers Grimm stories to fall back on and the original songs of Sondheim’s own composition, it was going to turn out good anyway. With three Golden Globe nominations, and one Screen Actors Guild - all for the actors’ performances and the film itself - and over a $120 million worldwide gross, the fantasy drama film has blown all musicals out of the water, setting the bar high for the future.
With films based around an adapted screenplay, or an actual play for that matter, it is hard to discredit the content, because it has already been in our midst for some time. In that case, it can only shine through its execution, and the element most exemplifying of this notion is the cast. I had my reservations about James Corden, most known for British comedy Gavin and Stacey, as the baker, but his performance proved me wrong, especially his and Emily Blunt’s chemistry as husband and wife. Their shy and romantic awkwardness made their relationship seem real, rather than the highly unattainable charm one dreams of in Disney, which leads onto the Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Emily Bunt dynamic. The straying Prince, scorned woman and timid wife triangle of love, infatuation and deceit returns the audience to a sense of dark Disney through the intensity of the true Grimm tales. Pine plays into his role of the ‘prince Casanova’ rather than ‘charming’ excellently, with his suave demeanour highlighted through the way he walks, talks, sings and even the mere aspect of his hair. You can just tell by his first appearance he could portray the role to a tee.
The youngsters of the crop, Daniel Huttlestone and Lila Crawford, could have stolen the show from the big Hollywood stars, piercing the viewers with their perfectly held notes and tone, a successful follow-up from their respective roles in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables (Huttlestone, as Gavroche) and James Lapine’s 2012 Broadway revival of Annie (Crawford as Annie.) Meryl Streep does wonders as the scary, blunt, formidable and quite comedic Witch who sets her sights on the baker and his wife to revoke their own curse, as well as hers, in order for her beauty to be restored. From Mamma Mia to this musical, she excels in all regards. Looking so grotesquely dangerous, she epitomises the message of charm, beauty and happiness faltering at the hand of the ill-fated destructive setting of the wood. And lets not forget the majestic re-creation of Rapunzel’s tower, the Witch’s face and Cinderella’s new and improved golden slipper, garnering the make-up, costume and set design teams with Bafta, and among other film associations, nominations.
Marshall has been praised and commended with critics lauding this movie his best yet, after his previous productions of Chicago and Nine. He definitely has a knack for the glitz and glamour of musicals, and if you throw in the darkness of the Brothers Grimm, well we have an all-rounder. As I said before, we can’t really knock the story, unless you absolutely hated the original play, but the film shines through its ensemble cast and their exceptional performances, as they are actors before they are singers, and that is what they producers were looking for.