It’s gotten to the point that terms like ‘post-modern’ or ‘deconstruction’ don’t mean anything anymore. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, or that we should cut it out. They’re the water we swim in, the air we breathe. Everything’s inter-textual, everything’s a deconstruction, everything’s irony and snark, and that’s probably healthy and at least it’s not without value. But it’s a scary and violent world, and maybe we should think about that a bit too.
I thought that when I watched Mirror Mirror last night. It’s a fairy tale, it’s Snow White. And fairy tales are genuinely scary, genuinely full of real monsters and human cruelty. I kept thinking “well, it’s a bit like Shrek, oh, that bit reminds me of Stardust, oh, look, a Bollywood ending.” None of this diminished my enjoyment of the film–it was fun and light and attractive and passed the time agreeably enough. It’s another deconstruction of fairy tales, because fairy tales are hot right now and since we don’t do anything but deconstruct them, well, this is another deconstruction.
What we’re really deconstructing, of course, isn’t the Grimm brothers or Asbjornson and Moe, we’re deconstructing Disney. That’s our way in. At a key point in the film, Snow White (Lily Collins) locks the Prince (The Winklevoss Twins) up, because, although she knows the hero is supposed to rescue the princess, screw that. She says it “that’s one way to tell a story, but I’m the Princess, I’m heir to the throne, this is my problem, I’m going to fight the Monster.” And the Prince says “I like the old story, it’s a perfectly good story, let’s go back to that story.” And he does end up escaping the seven dwarfs’ house (and, another deconstruction, they’re not Sleepy and Sneezy and Dopey, but have much more dignified names, like Half-Pint and Grub and Chuckles) and fighting the Beast (or Monster or what evs), though she beats it, she deals it the death blow. Well, she has to do that–our mythology requires that nod to girl power. Point is, they fight it together. And that’s fine, I like that, but . . . you know, sometimes evil wins. Mostly evil wins.
One of the main ideas in the movie, as in Stardust, is beautiful women, and the lengths they’ll go to to not let aging win. Michelle Pfeiffer in that, Julia Roberts in this; they’re both fighting the inevitable ravages of time, using the darkest of dark magic. Julia Roberts, as the Evil Queen, also has her own beauty regimen, involving leeches and bees and big goopy handfuls of parrot poop. As a parody of Hollywood and botox, it was one of the funniest moments in a film that pretty much went for laughs whenever.
But then the Queen has to raise money for her wedding to the Prince, and she taxes the peasants, and they’re all dirt poor, like, parodies of poorness in the costume choices. And, so, okay, she’s a 1 percenter, and she’s taxing poor people–a tiny nod to the real world. But it’s all pretty fleeting–mostly it just gives Snow White a chance to go all Robin Hood on poor Lord Nathan Lane, the Queen’s right hand cockroach. (Literally–to punish him, she turns him into a cockroach.)
The movie was great to look at, and Lily Collins is lovely and probably can act a little, though she didn’t show it much here, and I loved seeing Mare Winningham as a kindly cook. And I needed light entertainment, and it was duly provided. Just wish it had been a little better, a little more creative, a little more real. Like all those other movies it kept reminding me.