Into the Woods (No One Is Alone)

into-the-woods

Rating: Severe

Year: 2014
Running time: 2 hour 5 minutes
Director:
Rob Marshall
Cast: Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp

Spoiler alert in effect.

I was very excited to watch this when I saw it in the cinemas. Coming from the buzz of Les Miserables a few years back, I was eagerly awaiting another movie musical. Being a Disney production, you can count on a high quality cast and production, and of course princesses and princes. 

The thing I liked most about this film was the narrative. Or rather, the deviation from the standard Disney narrative of “happily ever after”. Just when you think the movie has ended, when Cinderella marries the prince, the baker and his wife have a child, the witch has reversed the curse etc, a giant ruins everything. No more happily ever after. This second act is the best part of the movie and what stands out for me. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming, and it was nice surprise. The bravery of Disney to take their beloved fairytales and characters and show a different side of them is what makes this such an engaging film. You don’t know what direction the characters are heading. It’s unpredictable and that’s so exciting these days. 

The music was superb, very well written and well executed. But this isn’t a surprise, considering it’s written by Stephen Sondheim (he also did Sweeney Todd). Perhaps not as grandeur or sonically inspiring as Les Miserables but good nevertheless. I like the way that it has a recurring song/melody that is threaded throughout the film. I felt it was much more interconnected compared to Les Mis and far less depressing of course. There are certain numbers which are sonically and visually beautiful. For example, “On the Steps of the Palace” in which Anna Kendricks belts out an E flat, and Meryl Streep’s swan song which was so breathtaking. Some of the songs were done live, such as Emily Blunt’s and Kendrick’s discussion of the prince. But others, like “On the Steps of the Palace” were pre-recorded as it would be extremely difficult to sing in a corset while walking up and down stairs. 

The acting was very well done as well, especially Streep. She does a convincing performance of a witch who is not as evil as she is made out to be. While she may keep her daughter locked up in a castle, she does so out of good intentions, to protect her from the world. But at some point, her selfishness takes over and she refuses her daughter to have the chance to explore the world and live a normal life. I think this resonates with many people in the world, especially parents. The more you protect people and shield them, the more likely they will want to break out from the shell, and that can often make it worse than it should be. 

streep

The other characters are also interestingly portrayed. Cinderella is unsure about her feelings for the prince, and while he is charming, she’s not certain that he’s the right one for her and it’s not how she imagined it would be. The prince turns out to be less than loyal and Cinderella has the strength to end the relationship. With the baker’s wife, all she wants is a baby and she does whatever it takes to make it happen, even if she cheats or steal from other. Her baker husband it more of the moral compass, questioning their actions to reverse the curse and get a baby. While he is afraid of being a father like his own, when thrust in the situation, he musters the courage to take care of the baby and not make the same mistake of running away like his father.

Overall, every character learns something new, things they didn’t know before, and I think this is one of the central messages of the film. That while in the woods of life, people face many different personalities, many obstacles and challenges and face the departure of people from the woods itself. The woods are our lives. And while at times it may seem scary and we may get lost, there will be others who can help guide us and comfort us. And that’s good to know.

Other ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Metacritic: 69/100
IMDb: 6.0/10
Cinemascore: B

Discussion questions:

1. Have any of you watched this on stage before? Was it as good as the film?
2. Did anyone else find the scene where the baker’s wife made out with the prince a little random?

 

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