MIRROR MIRROR, 2012
Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Sean Bean, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Robert Emms, Martin Klebba, Danny Woodburn, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Jordan Prentice
Review by Jen Frankel
MIRROR MIRROR MOVIE TRAILER WATCH
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
Julia Roberts is one of those awkward actresses smart women like me just love to hate. She's in that club populated by, at various times, Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, and more recently Blake Lively. And why? Probably because the only people who seem to love them are guys who think they're hot, and women who want the same attention. We roll our eyes, demean them as actors, and wish Hollywood would cast someone who'd remind us a little more of ourselves and a little less of what Hollywood is trying to force us to be.
I've avoided anything with Roberts for years, not really able to judge what I honestly think of her because of the bad taste left by years of telling boys that no, I didn't think she was a great actress. So I was a little reticent to see Mirror, Mirror even though I am a sucker for a decent fairy tale retelling.
Not that there haven't been a lot of bad ones - movies that seem to entirely miss the point of what a fairy tale IS for the sake of trying to discover a new way of looking at the genre. The regrettable "Brothers Grimm" is a good example, a film that thought it had more to say than a fairy tale and fell far, far short.
Because fairy tales work because they know what we crave as listeners - the mark of a real storyteller. Fairy tales are spare and genuine: they don't introduce a character that doesn't matter, and everyone has a purpose and a truth to teach us. Mirror, Mirror succeeds as a wonderful family film and a treat to satisfy a cynical, usually less-than-satisfied romantic and fairy tale junkie like me.
First, it's less of a "reboot" (ironic since its producer is reboot tzar Brett Ratner), not even a re-imagining like a film like "Sleepy Hollow," and more of an expansion on a theme. Snow White is, at its heart, a story about the wages of vanity and greed, and that's what this film is. It's even a kind of anti-Hollywood statement courtesy of Roberts's evil queen who is warned of the price of the magic she uses to keep herself beautiful even when undergoing one of the more gruesomely hilarious makeovers put to screen.
I can't say enough about both the performances and the script. Seven wonderfully created and acted performances from the actors playing the dwarfs, not to mention a lovely reworking of their lives to make them something closer to Robin Hood than the old hardworking miners. A strong and intelligent Snow in the person of Lily Collins - lovely yes but her journey is about learning to become the woman she needs to be as the daughter of a king, not cleaning house and singing to birds ala Disney. Armie Hammer shows some great comic chops as the adventure-seeking Prince who keeps losing half his clothing, and Roberts herself is incandescent as both the wicked, vain Queen and her not-quite-accurate reflection.
The undercurrent in the film is about looking past the surface and learning what's in people's hearts before you judge. Almost everyone is a victim of the only thing that trickles down in this sad kingdom is the Queen's prejudice against anything that isn't beautiful - unless it's more beautiful that she. The dwarves are driven out of their former occupations as freaks; the Queen ridicules her servants and bankrupts the kingdom.
It's a good lesson for Hollywood and American, actually. You just have to look at the subtle and strong performances turned in here by little person actors like Mark Povinelli (Are You There, Chelsea?) and Jordan Prentice (who stole In Bruges from Colin Farrell) to understand that roles with even a little meat are not typically offered to actors who deviate from Roberts's and Hammer's spectacular looks.
So Mirror, Mirror redeemed Roberts for me in a way I had never expected, in a role that lets her shine as the one person who never learns that beauty isn't everything.
Parents looking for a great film to share with their children will find it challenging but not in adult ways - a little scary but not for long, not too intensely, and not without reason. Romantics like me will just love the costumes, the characters, and the sheer joy of the journey.