Saturday, January 26, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (& Sweeney Todd)

Although well directed and a great story, in the end i found this less than overwhelming, which it really demanded to be. Considering the subject matter, it left me largely cold, the reason being, i think, that none of the characters was especially well drawn; they seemed two-dimensional, perhaps not by thriller standards, but by the standards it aspired to, which were those of tragedy. Since we were never given a sense of why we should care about any of them, besides feeling a certain amount of pity for the Ethan Hawke character, there was never much at stake to my mind. It was just a bunch of rather sordid people making a mess of their lives. Had it worked better as a thriller, this wouldn't have mattered, but it wasn't exciting enough to be a thriller. And what was that opening graphic sex scene all about? Sure, Marisa Tomei looks great for her age (43), and she doesn't mind showing her assets, bless her. But it really had no reason whatsoever to be there. I couldn't help wondering: is this how an 83-year-old film director gets his jollies?

Sweeney Todd gets better the more i think back on it, stays in the memory like a magikal dream. i confess not to respond to the music especially, more to the lyrics, so i doubt i would have enjoyed it much on stage. But Burton's staging and the pairing of HBC and JD are wondrous to behold.

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