Tomorrow is my 13th anniversary. Yeah, Plantboy!
And though it would be easy to come up with 13 reasons to love Plantboy (Number 7: I have to turn down NPR when I get in to the car because he runs it at full volume.), I'm going to use my time here today to speak for a moment about the movie we saw for our anniversary date on Saturday.
Plantboy chose the restaurant and I chose the movie: Snow White and the Huntsman. I had been pretty gung ho all week until I read some of the stinky reviews on the film. Cool visual effects, no heart. Hemsworth cute but a real meathead. Spotty accents. Can Kristen Stewart actually act? Charlize Theron is better sultry and subtle than screechy. Etc. Etc. Still, we finished our wonderful dinner by 7 pm and the last thing I was going to do was go home and put my own kids to bed on date night, so to the movie we went.
I actually think it was good to read the reviews. My expectations were so low by the time we sat down that there was really no where for my opinion to go but up.
I actually agree with a lot of the criticism. Can Kristen Stewart act? Is twitching and a partially opened mouth and a "rescue me NOW" air really acting? The accents were inconsistent. Why don't they just let Hemsworth loose with his Aussie-boy sound? And yes, he is a bit of a meathead. Charlize Theron was just plain terrifying a few times, and the guy who played her brother was just creepy beyond reason.
What the reviews didn't say (and I will, so don't read the next part if you don't want spoilers. Though, honestly, the Snow White story is pretty familiar, no?) but I will is that Snow White is a remarkably strong heroine. Yes, yes, she is pretty. But she is also tough and determined. She faces the queen without any of her admirers--large or small--because she knows the duty is hers alone. She inspires others to follow her. She brings out the best in the men and women she meets. The premise in this movie is not that evil Queen Ravenna wants Snow White's heart as proof of her death, but that she needs it for some kind of ritual that will make her immortal, because it is a heart so strong and pure. The ritual part wasn't too clear . . . I think the implication was that she was going to eat it or something. That part was a bit hazy, although I might have been distracted by the visual effects that fill this movie at every turn.
And now a moment about those visual effects--we've come a long way since Star Wars Episode One, baby. These effects are so seamless and realistic that it is hard to tell when (if ever) you are looking at a screen shot that hasn't been altered in some way. And yet, none of the actors ever appear stiff or wooden. Their interaction with the effects is so honest that you really believe it is happening. It is escape fantasy at its best. The film, even at its darkest, is still lovely.
Three films lately have painted an aging woman's desire for youth and beauty as a thing that is soul-sucking and craze inducing. Tangled; Mirror, Mirror; and Snow White and the Hunstman. Each mother-figure in these movies uses a combination of cruelty, manipulation and magic to achieve their beauty. In the end, the obsession over youth and beauty destroys each one in turn. An interesting commentary on our time, particularly in these last two films where iconically gorgeous women were cast as the queen-leads. There can be little denying that beauty is a kind of power.
By the end of the movie there are two men in love with Snow White. (No, no, one is not a vampire and the other a werewolf, though the humor of this actress chosen for this part was not lost on this viewer.) The Huntsman, made a widower by Ravenna's evil insatiability for young and beautiful victims, and the Duke's son, William, a young man of noble birth who was a friend of Snow White's from childhood. William is clearly the better choice for Snow White as far as her being a future queen and all. He also isn't a wimp singing down wishing wells and looking for a princess to kiss. He is a remarkable archer who has also sacrificed much to save Snow White's life. He has loved her for all his life. The Hunstman, (and no, he has no other name, don't even ask) on the other hand, is surprised to learn that he loves Snow White. We learn that she inspires him to be a better man (ahem: Darcy effect, thank you very much), just as his dead wife did. It is this second, reluctant lover for which we feel much compassion. He knows that it is impossible for a man as rough and hard as he to win the love of a queen, and he is very nearly absent on the most important day of her life. And while she seems anxious that he not be absent, the movie-goer doesn't really know. The movie ends without her choosing. Nor does she know which lover's kiss is the one that wakes her from the poison apple.
Okay, okay, to the moment I loved and has stuck with me.
As Snow White stabs the queen (using a technique taught to her by the Huntsman) she looks into the witch's eyes with such determination and compassion at the same time that you think this Snow White is the real deal and that she deserves to be queen. She tells the usurper, "You can't have my heart," and I was so certain she would follow that line with the expected, "I've already given it away." And then she would choose a beau, etc. etc. No. The line was just the first part. You can't have my heart. The implication is clear. It is MINE. And I'm using it, thank you very much. The queen dies in a dried up slumpy heap in front of the large, bronze mirror at the heart of her magic. Snow stands up straight and looks straight into the heart of the mirror. Her face is just off center, and I really expected one of the men, left practically useless by Ravenna's last glass shard-warrior spell in the other room to come running in and stand in that empty space near her. To complete the picture.
But no one came.
This Snow White stands alone.
Strengthened by the men in her life, but rescuing as often as she is rescued, she doesn't need to choose any one of them to rule her kingdom with compassion and power.
This is a new sort of heroine. Women and girls are gaining strength in unprecedented ways. It is a remarkable and an exciting time to be alive, isn't it?