Thursday, January 31, 2008


Let's see...

Tim Burton? Check.

Johnny Depp? Check.

Helena Bonham Carter? Check.

Alan Rickman? Check.

Sacha Baron Cohen? Check. (He's on The List now.)

Gloomy Fantastical Victorian Atmosphere? Check.

Perfectly swishy costumes, just slightly faded/ worn/ misused? Check.

Twisted storyline with an over the top, unbelievable premise? Check.

I HAD TO SEE THIS. Seriously, I was waiting for this one for a year.

Oh, as a bonus, buckets and buckets and pails and gallon drums and tanker truck loads of red paint. Blood fest. I'm not usually into horror movies. Let me clarify that: I can't watch horror movies. I made an exception for Burton's Sleepy Hollow, which is just gorgeous to look at. Mostly. I didn't care in this case though, because The List was so perfectly filled. I will sit through the bloodbath if Tim Burton started it. Good lord I hope he never tries his hand at reality TV. hahahaha.

And did I mention that this is a MUSICAL?!

Well that changed everything for me. Seriously. How can I have nightmares about the slashing of some poor fella's throat if the person doing the slashing is singing about it?

I knew the basic premise of SWEENEY TODD but hadn't seen it or knew how it ended. It is a twisted tale of a wrongful conviction, of unrequited love and dirty old men, and a lust for murderous revenge. It is also a nighmarish cautionary tale about personal grooming and questionable eating establishments.

So extremely, very much, unpleasant.

I was not disappointed. Johnny Depp carried this role of beautifully, and I'm not just saying that because he could read the phone book and I'd gush about how nuanced his performance was. He's tortured inside, and he is relishing his own pain. He's absolutely blinded by it. You can imagine that he's so consumed with revenge that he might not fully remember anymore what started it, just that he will have vengeance!!!

It's earned him an Oscar nomination.

Is it possible that a movie about a murderous plot can be so beautiful to look at? The light is handled so perfectly, and there's not much light to go around. It's dark, shadowy, like a photograph taken a century ago and left in an attic to fade. Every detail is perfect, right down the slime on the bricks, the stubble on Alan Rickman's face and the grunge in Mrs Lovett's disgusting pie shop.

I was stunned by all the texture: cracked leather, rippled glass windows, dusty floors. What a visual experience.

The movie is all dark, faded, wet gloom, designed in black and shades of grey with a few recurring splashes of red: blood, Mrs Lovett's dirty crimson dresses. The few jolts of colour are shocking. Todd's first victim is a peacock flash of bright blue; he doesn't last long. Mrs Lovett's fantasy scene is a bleached out and pale vision of what would have been a sunshine and brightness.

May I just say that I love Helena Bonham Carter. It's like this role was made for her face. May I also say that Alan Rickman is the most perfect elegant villain in his opulent clothes and oily voice.

The songs are really the skeleton of the movie. I know this whole mess was originally a very successful Broadway play, but having never been to Broadway, didn't know the music at all. These are some jaunty, catchy, well written songs! They have stuck in my head weeks later, and not in that annoying teen-diva kind of way. Best of all, the songs were delivered with fierce scenery chewing expression. It looked perfectly right that Mr Todd and Mrs Lovett should break into song when discussing their murderous plans.

Now I don't know if we were supposed to laugh, and it's quite possible that we deeply offended the other eight people cringing in the dark theatre, but we followed every horrified cringe with an uncomfortable laugh. It was all just so extreme. Gush, pour, splat!!! We doubled over and groaned with idiotic grins on our faces.

Wow. Eye popping! Lovesick conniving! Striped stockings! Those angry creases between Mr Todd's eyebrows!

We left the theatre feeling a little bit lightheaded and sick to our stomachs. Especially Jethro. I grew up watching various veterinarian procedures being performed, all of which involved some blood. My townie husband can't deal with it. He was a little green.

We couldn't stop talking about it all the way home. Jethro didn't see the ending coming. He was pretty disgusted. But couldn't stop talking about what a great movie it is.

There's something special about entertainment that slaps you across the face with repulsion but leaves you thinking that you can't wait to see it again. You wanna know something though? I don't think it would have been the same if anybody else had been involved in it.

I'd love to hear some opinions on this nasty little piece of work...


Biddie said...

Oh, Heidi, I wanted to see this sooo badly. I think that we missed it. Heck, I think that Kayla missed it.
I am getting it on dvd. I might even get Stardust, just b/c you loved it. I saw it previously viewed for CHEAP.

Heidi the Hick said...

At first I didn't think I'd get it on DVD. I didn't know if I could really stomach it one more time...but you know there's always Fast Forward...

A Paperback Writer said...

I really want to see that show! But I have a herniated disc and cannot sit in a movie theatre seat long enough to watch a whole show -- and still be able to walk afterward. I'll have to wait for the DVD.
Great review, though!

Tara said...

I'll have to wait until it's out on dvd, I suppose (boo!) but I just needed to chime in to say that I fell in love with this musical in college when we had to watch it for our fine arts theatre class. (I hated that class, btw.)

I'm sure my husband will despise it...I despise the movies he loves, though, so turnabout is fair play, right?

Schwarma said...

I enjoyed your review!
Having seen Sweeney Todd on Broadway with some friends a few years ago, I decided to wait until this weekend to see the movie version as it was the only time we could all see it together.

I LOVED the cinematography.
I also was pleased by the blood looking so fake. It somehow added something, you know?

One regret: They left out the Ballad of Sweeney Todd. I highly recommend you download it.

The Adult in Question said...

Saw it, loved it, buying it. I think that pretty much sums it up.