Friday, January 02, 2015

Movie Experience: Into the Woods



I haven't seen the stage production.  In fact, I was barely aware of it, as I stopped really being aware of stage musicals  in about 1985 when I no longer was involved in theatre.   I walked in without much information or many preconceptions, knowing only that Meryl Streep was in it and I had earplugs to keep the sound system from deafening me.

I don't think I'm spoiling the plot for this 30 year old play if I say it shakes up and examines many themes while interweaving and deconstructing traditional "fairy tales" -- Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and innumerable stories about childless couples willing to do anything to have a baby. Deconstructing? unraveling.  Every happy ending falls apart once we get past the "end" of the story.  Characters die, disaster strikes, true love falls apart, and no one really gets what they wished for.

In short, I cried a lot, quietly and unexpectedly, as Sondheim's music and Rob Marshall's unrelenting closeups tapdanced across my emotional buttons in the most graceful way.  This being a Disney production, some of the creepier and darker stuff (I'm looking at you, Big Bad Wolf, and I've studied these old tales, so I know what the story is really about) is off screen.  That didn't make it any less painful, because, really, the pain of death isn't with the dead, but with the living who must continue.  That was the wrenching part for me -- those who have to continue.

The Husband was also crying, which isn't typical for him (I weep my way through many a movie that doesn't bother him at all).  In fact, he continued crying even after we walked back to the car, and we were both laughing at the same time because he was crying.  It was quite the catharsis.

All that said, I'm not sure I liked the movie. It had a few chuckles and one big (uncertain) laugh with the song "Agony".  We had a small crowd to watch the movie and when the song started, with the two princes hamming it up exuberantly, no one was quite sure if we should laugh.  I couldn't help myself and burst out.  But that was really the only laugh.  The rest was much more grim.  The film was beautiful, the acting spot on, the singing remarkably good (I had no idea Chris Pine had those pipes, much less Meryl Streep, although I am convinced she can do anything.)  The Husband and I cannot make up our minds if we would want to watch this one again, despite the beautiful music.  I didn't exactly enjoy the experience, although I doubt I will forget it.

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