Thursday, April 5, 2012


Even with the wacky hair and the razor, Johnny Depp manages
not to overact....
"At arm is complete again."

1) I'm convinced there is an exceptional Broadway musical director fighting to get out of Tim Burton's body. One of the absolute brilliant things about this film is how easily the story flows, carried forward on the strength of its songs and the way he directs the film so it feels like a stage play when it needs to, and opens up when it doesn't....

2) ....and another brilliant thing is how this group of actors you think wouldn't be able to carry musical numbers succeed because Burton is able to recast much of Sondheim's songs (many of which utilize complex time changes, harmonies and dissonant lyrics) so that they're talk-singing their way through it. And because so much is talk-singing, it gives certain actors--especially Johnny Depp--the confidence to try full on singing.

3) You'll notice that this film utilizes a muted color pallete throughout its running time unlike many later Burton features where said muted pallete gives way to a much brighter one...and I think Burton could benefit from abandoning those damn eccentric candy color swirls and doing something more subdued like this more often....because those bright colors distract from Burton's storytelling abilities in other films, but here the moments where the bright colors appear (i.e. every time there is a throat slitting) empasizes the horror and shock of those moments.
Look!  Sasha Baron Cohen is using a funny accent...and
is actually good!

4) Why is it I love Sascha Baron Cohen except when his dialogue is written by Sascha Baron Cohen? I ask this because, quite frankly, he's brilliant as Pirelli.

5) Another performance I love is Timothy Spall's as Beadle Bamford. Not just because it is successful in its all-out oiliness...but because somehow with his body language and his appearance, Spall seems to have walked straight out of the illustrations for the Penny Dreadfuls from which this story originally came from.

6) As much as I dislike CGI...okay, loathe CGI...this is what it should be used for--enhancing the look of a film, making London look like a sinister picture book of the London of old. I can even respect the somewhat clumsy use of CGI blood in a few key moments at the film's climax, as using the slower flowing blood in those kills seem to be a subliminal cue that these are the murders Sweeney will learn to regret.

7) I didn't notice until this viewing how 'By The Sea' has a darkly funny staging thanks to the way Depp seems thoroughly out of it as Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovett is planning their upcoming fantasy life. And speaking of which...

8) I'm really of two minds when it comes to Helena Bonham Carter's Lovett. She's very much underplaying it, which seems to make her more monstrous than Sweeney--after all, Sweeney's horrors are spurred forward by what Judge Turpin did to him, while Lovitt's is done out of practical capitalism--but there's a ring of falseness to the way she continues to go along with 'Mr. T' even when it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that he is working at his own purposes to the exclusion of hers.
"Didn't you once rob Nakatoni Plaza?"

9) While it is a delight to see Alan Rickman being Mean Ol' Rickman...I can't help but think that he's not exactly stretching himself here, that this is just a bit of lazy casting facilitating some lazy acting.

10) While it's obvious from almost the introduction of the romantic subplot that it's only there because it was there in the stage play, the way Burton literally forgets to pay off on it, satisfied with leaving Joanna in the chair and forgetting about Anthony almost entirely once the climax is in high gear makes his disinterest clear.

Overall...arguably the best of Burton's later films thanks to his eschewing of what has become his stylistic crutches, this succeeds both as a musical and as a full-on, grand guignol horror film.

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