Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review: Sweeney Todd

Usually, if a reviewer writes something like: "this is a big bloody mess of a film," you would avoid said film. But, friends, you should seek out THIS bloody mess!

I went into this film not really knowing many details. Oh, I knew the basic story: an ex-con, the barber Todd, seeks vengeance by becoming a serial killer in Victorian London. And the bodies are recycled into his landlady's meat pies. My parents had seen the original show on Broadway - I think that was the beginning of my dad's love of Angela Lansbury! - but I had never heard any of the songs. In general, I enjoy Sondheim, so I was eager to hear the score. And equally interested in what bizarreness Tim Burton and Johnny Depp had cooked up this time, their sixth collaboration.

So, the basic story: Benjamin Barker was convicted on trumped-up charges by a corrupt judge (Alan Rickman - always a delightful villain) who coveted Mrs. Barker. He is transported - and returns 15 years later, now calling himself Sweeney Todd. He establishes himself as a barber once again, in the same apartment that he and his wife had lived. His landlady is Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), a baker of the worst meat pies in London. After dispatching his first victim - a rival barber played by the scene stealing Sacha Baron Cohen - they hit upon the plan to dispose of the bodies of future victims in Mrs. Lovett's pies - which become a culinary hit. The action follows Todd's attempts at revenge.

The music is fantastic! Typical Sondheim - melodic, advancing the story along, fantastic funny lyrics. And although the main cast will probably not be releasing any solo albums, they carry off the tunes fairly well. Bonham Carter is NOT a singer - her voice is thin and reedy - but in the context of the character it actually works. And Johnny - well, he does really well.

The three young "unknowns" will blow you away. Toby is played by a young man named Ed Sanders - and he is incredible. This is his first film - and he holds his own against both Cohen and Depp. Jayne Wisener plays Todd's daughter Johanna - she is just lovely and so talented. The young sailor whom she loves is played by Jamie Campbell Bower. All three are appearing in their first films - and they show great promise.

Johnny Depp. Well, if he doesn't finally get an Oscar for this film.... This film is the culmination of an incredible body of work, his range of roles is incredible. From the crazy Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Willie Wonka, JM Barrie, Ed Wood, the romantic Roux in "Chocolat"... Sweeney Todd is a psychopath, pushed to the brink by the injustices of life, and the road he starts down leads ultimately to incredible tragedy and sadness. Yet as you watch Depp, you actually feel sympathetic; you understand why he acts as he does.

I think the Depp/Tim Burton pairing will probably go down in film history as one of the great creative pairings. Dare I say it's up there with John Ford and John Wayne? George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn? They bring such life to such twisted tales and twisted characters! And their films are always sumptuous, absolutely delicious cinemagraphically (is that a word?!) This film is painted in shades of black and gray - the pale sickly skin of the main characters is a projection of their inner sickness. There is one fantastic sequence where Mrs. Lovett fantasizes they are on a beach holiday - there they are, strolling the boardwalk, with their wild hair, white skin, dark circles and bizarre clothing - wonderful!

Okay, so do you get the idea that I liked it?? YES! But be warned - it is incredibly bloody - at one point, I had to close my eyes because it was so graphic. But that quickly passed... This is the first film I've seen in a while that I came out of thinking, I may to see this again.



Blogger beckperson said...

Beth, I totally agree with your review, naturally. I, too, didn't know much more about the storyline than they killed people and turned them into meat pies. How they did it? Why they did it? I hadn't a clue, which made for fun viewing.

Took me a while to go with the flow with the music. But I've always been a Sondheim fan and knew two songs from Barbra Streisand's "Broadway" albums, which I adore. So it was fun hearing them in context.

I'm with you...I'll look forward to seeing this again.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Tex said...

ok all this talk about Sweeney Todd has my interest piqued. and I am NOT a movie person. Whats a girl to do?

9:03 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

What's a girl to do? go see it!

1:39 PM  
Blogger Rain said...

Ohhh thanks for the review... i was wondering what it was about..

the costumes look magnificent!
i shall go see it @__@

8:17 PM  

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