Frances Winston looks at the impressive new Disney film with a feminist twist
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Although I write for a living, I am struggling to find words to articulate how excited everyone I know in the community seems to be about this film.
The LGBT community has long loved all things Disney, so this live action version of the classic Sleeping Beauty, told from the side of the titular super villain, has been eagerly awaited. Angelina Jolie is even more uber-cheekboned than usual in the title role of the vamp, who was responsible for cursing Sleeping Beauty, in the classic animated tale. However, this version gives the story a whole new spin, and all is not as you think you knew.
Having been betrayed by Stefan (Copley – surely one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood) so that he can become king, evil fairy Maleficent vows revenge. She surrounds the kingdom with a wall of thorns, and when she learns that he and his wife have had a daughter Aurora (played by Fanning as she gets older) she curses the infant to prick her finger on a spinning wheel, before the sun sets on her 16th birthday. This will cause her to fall into a deep sleep, that only true love’s kiss can wake her from. Fearful for his child’s life, Stefan sends her away with three pixies, whom he orders to raise her until the deadline for the curse has passed, in the hopes of averting it.
So far so traditional. However, this is Maleficent’s story, so here we get to see how she amused herself, for the 16-years until the curse was implemented. She watches over the “beast”, ensuring no harm comes to her, before her revenge is exacted. However, the angelic child slowly begins to win over the vindictive sorceress, and as the day of reckoning beckons, Maleficent begins to rethink her curse.
This looks simply magnificent. Everything, including Jolie, is larger than life, and the colour palette is stunning and used to great effect. The story puts an interesting spin on the tale, which should keep both old and new fans alike happy.
Jolie is well cast in the lead – not just because of her striking resemblance to the character, but also because she manages to show the softness and hurt beneath her gruff exterior. Her daughter, Vivienne, makes a brief appearance as the young Aurora, and shows early signs of following in her famous parents footsteps.
Copley is fantastic as the tortured Stefan, who is driven to the brink of madness by the fate that hangs over him. He is a super actor and really deserves more mainstream roles. All the rest of the supporting cast do an admirable job, and Fanning is suitably ethereal as Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty. However, this is Jolie’s film, and she makes the most of it, completely stealing the show and looking stunning throughout.
Some of the CGI is a bit on the dodgy side, but I can forgive that when the rest of the movie is so epic. Everything is done on a huge scale, and Stromberg has done a great job creating the world of the film. It is a bit slow to get going, and dips a bit when Aurora is living with the pixies, but on the whole the pacing is good and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
This is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by both young and old, and should leave everyone with a case of the warm and fuzzies. The community will most certainly love it, and I imagine we will be seeing plenty of people dressing up as Maleficent over Pride weekend.
In cinemas now