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[personal profile] trooper6
So, I watched Sweeney Todd last night.

It was pretty good.

But I had two problems with it: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.

Johnny Depp- He does menacing and broody well. However, he remained controlled and muted throughout most of the performance. He also doesn't have a very strong voice. This works for most of Sweeney Todd, but really, really fails at two important points in the film. There are two places where Sweeney's depth of anguish explodes powerfully: the Epiphany ("They all deserve to die...") and at the end we he discovers The Body ("What have I done?!"). In the Epiphany, the lack of power in Depp's voice totally robs that song of the emotional power of that pivotal moment. And although there is no singing in the final moment, he doesn't bring the emotional power at the big reveal at then end either. As a matter of fact, he was a bit one note (two notes, I suppose--menacing and broody-angry). His lack of other emotions sapped many moments of the film for me. "These are my friends" lacked any real warmth towards his razors and his delivery of "At last my arm is complete again" was so underdone, I never felt like he really had that intense of a relationship to his razors. He never discovered anything, he never was surprised. His performance was two-dimensional. It worked on a charicature level...on a not deep level. He just sort of exists, and a lot of the effectiveness of his performance comes from the source material and not from him.

Tim Burton- He did a good job of being bloody. The killing of people was quite well done and intense. But he inserted too many Tim Burtonisms and it detracted at times. During the Epiphany there was an especially groan-y moment for me. When Sweeney is on the ground and we see his reflection in a puddle, he is on his knees, he splashes the puddle and then he leans back, arms spread, on his knees, looking up, singing (without alot of power) " Full of Joooy" as the camera spins overhead. It was like all those parody "Nooooo!" moments in comedy the wonderful Noooo! in Prehistoric Glamazon Huntress AD. His directorial work was too much at seemed most apparent during the latter parts some of the songs when he didn't seem to know what to do anymore, so he does something idiosycratic...and for me, it detracted...and in the Epiphany made me groan. Lastly, he made a directorial choice that I think was a really, really big mistake. He cut out all the group singing. (The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, etc). Now you might think, why is this a big deal. Well, because (Really, hear is a spoiler, for real)--that means that the only "non important" character who sings is the Beggar other street people sing...which means it is really obvious that the Beggar Woman is Lucy from the get go. I never realized how much having the beggar woman be part of a background of singing people helped disguise her true identity until watching this movie and seeing the background removed. (Not even the customers in "God That's Good" sing).

So, the good:

Helena Bonham Carter- She doesn't have best voice either, but it really works here...probably because she acts the heck out of the role. I mean, she was everything that Depp was not. She had nuance and internal conflict. She had depth and...she was really good. The "Nothings Gonna Harm You" sequence was great, her "Worst Pies in London"--excellent. She was really very good and since she is the co-star, she really did a lot to make the film enjoyable for me.

The kid who played Toby- best voice in the cast, and a quite effective. I liked him a lot.

Alan Rickman-excellent as always. A joy.
The Beadle-Skeevy, and that's a good thing.

Coleen Atwood- the costume designer, great job! She's been doing a lot of great stuff of late.

In the middle:
Joanna was pretty decent actually. I quite liked her...but they didn't giver her much to do...a lot of her was really cut out of the film. I think she only had one song: "Green Finch"--nothing else. And the actor was convincing and interesting...but she didn't have much to do.
The sailor- I liked him as an actor/singer...but Burton shot him from this sort of emo camera angle a little too often...which was annoying, but not the actor's fault. Also, because they cut all of the Toby/Johanna duets...his love for her came off a bit...stalkerish? non-mutual? It didn't work so much for me. And he didn't have much to sing besides his "Johanna bits" (though he started off the film with a verse of "There's No Place Like London") I think the cuts to Johanna and Antony (who are characters who need committed actors or they come off as two dimensional ) in terms of their music really robbed them of depth.

I think it could have been done a lot better with someone other than Depp in the lead and someone other than Burton directing. Heck, Anthony Steward Head had a cameo, I bet he'd have been a way better Sweeney...we know he can sing with power.

So, B...or B+ with grade inflation

Date: 2007-12-23 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I enjoyed the movie, but I know very little about musical theatre and so don't really know good from great :). I am glad to hear that there's more of Johanna - the fact that she was such a flat character, treated more like an object to be won than a person by *everyone*, including the boy who loved her, was my main gripe with the movie.

Personally, I hope this does well only because I'm waiting for the Les Miserables musical to come out (yes, I know they made it into a movie a few years ago, but the movie cut out my two favorite characters and I'm pissed about that).

Date: 2007-12-23 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The thing is that both Johanna and Anthony are the stereotypical lyric soprano and heroic tenor that are usually the heroes of other musicals...and they are both a bit dim in this one...too sunny and too naive in the midst of the bleakness. There is an intential flatness to their character that is noted and remarked on well in the musical, and I think they also get a bit of twisted depth. With all their music cut in the film, that doesn't come off as much. And here Johanna is little more than window dressing but the sailor's dimness is obsured. In the stage musical, it is Johanna who kills Fogg (of the asylum). The Sailor has the gun, but he can't shoot and drops the gun, Johanna on the other hand, is quite able to shoot her soon-to-be-former captor.

And this is really a small detail, but in the musical, Johanna is not let go by Sweeney at the end, she escapes when he is distracted by Mrs. Lovett's scream from the bakehouse. She clearly collects the police and the Sailor because at the end of the musical, they all rush into the bakehouse and see the dead Todd and a completely insane Toby grinding away on the grinder.

I'd go see a new Les Miz.


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