Sunday, December 23, 2007

gotta sing! gotta dance! gotta kill!

It seems that any midnight showing I've ever been to that didn't involve Tim Curry has involved Johnny Depp. It's not even that I'm a big fan - I'm not, really - but I think my girlfriends from high school have been sucked in to the "OMGZ new johnny depp movie must see it as early as possible" state of mind, and I've come along for the ride on more than one occasion. The most recent foray into midnight fandom was to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which contains quite a bit more cannibalism than The Rocky Horror Picture Show, surprising no one.

I don't know why I was so excited to see this movie - I'm not a Nightmare Before Christmas or Tim Burton fan, and I think Johnny Depp's face looks like a cat - but I really was. I've never seen Sweeney Todd onstage, but I saw some random clips of Angela Lansbury kicking ass as Mrs. Lovett on KCET once, and I'd wanted to see it ever since. The movie appealed to me as an apt substitution (note: Jersey Girl had very little influence on this decision, but yes, some). This is certainly the most impressed I've been by Tim Burton, and it is evident that Bonham-Carter brought much more than nepotism to her role.

She was convincing in her deranged adoration for Todd, as if Marla from Fight Club had grown up with a less traumatic childhood. Depp was a better singer than expected, and did well in the title role, though I think the character is a bit one-dimensional through no fault of his. He played the static character with restraint when appropriate and hasty violence otherwise, which entertained me and caused the baby that someone had brought to a midnight movie (of Sweeney Todd for crying out loud) to cry...out loud.

Supporting actors Sacha Baron Cohen and Alan Rickman amused me and creeped me out, respectively, and Timothy Spall was perfectly cast with his tendency toward caricature. Jamie Campbell Bower and Jayne Wisener, playing the young lovers Anthony and Johanna, had enough awkwardness in their appearances as to seem crafted for a Tim Burton musical. I was very impressed throughout by young Ed Sanders as Toby, who had an incredible singing voice for a preteen boy, and acted opposite the leads comfortably.

Stylistically, the washed-out, nearly black-and-white color scheme was perfectly, if obviously, crafted to offset the candy apple red blood that imbued most of the scenes in the film. Which brings me to violence - I have never been squeamish at movies, and I was delighted by the throat-slitting scenes that were never, ahem, cut away from (lolz) when a pandering director might have had them offscreen. That isn't to say that gore is always best, because I think in serious/dramatic instances, leaving sex and violence mostly up to the imagination of the audience can be more powerful. But here, the drip-drip-JUGULAR-splash of the syrupy bloodstuff lent itself well to the darkly comic tone of the film. In keeping with that tone, the "seaside" interlude was hilarious and a great foil for the rest of the movie.

I was actually surprised by the "gotcha" moment at the end of the movie, though in hindsight I can't believe how blind I was to the twist. The opening credits and the final scene were crafted with a clearly obsessive attention to detail, and bookended the film very nicely. The outcome of the young lovers' story is not wrapped up, but I didn't care enough about that B-romance anyway, so it didn't matter. Also, I hope I'm not the only one who couldn't stop thinking about the Pietà in regards to the composition of the final scene.

So, if you can dig on bloody movies and movie musicals, I hope you see Sweeney Todd on the big screen. Still, "if you only see one movie this Christmas season," my vote's gotta go to Juno.

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