There’s Something About Kristen

BAKER STREET | REVIEW

by Eric J Baker

Kristen Stewart’s critics aren’t wrong: When she isn’t being plain old bland, she’s being morose. She’s not an exotic beauty, nor is she the all-American girl next door. Yet still she manages to captivate us. Maybe it’s that half smile she gives up about an hour into every one of her stone-faced performances. It’s like we’ve been given a great, unexpected gift. And the occasional twinkle in her eye would be a full-frontal nude scene from another actress.

Stewart: There’s a happy girl in there somewhere. (Ph: W Magazine)

Stewart brings her weary good looks (imagine her in a movie with Ben Affleck called Pretty, Tired People) to the role of Snow White in Universal Picture’s Snow White and the Huntsman, which opened this weekend. This Tolkien-esque take on the familiar fairy tale involves a serial usurper named Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who, like me, needs beautiful women around to feel young. However, whereas I am satisfied with a charitable smile or the occasional act of harmless flirtation, Ravenna sucks the life right out of these girls.

Her ticket to immortality is Snow White, the rightful queen, whom she keeps locked in the tower (you know, the rickety one with noisy radiators and faulty wiring). But when time comes to cut out White’s heart, the plucky prisoner escapes and flees into the dark forest, where she runs into Princess Buttercup and the Dread Pirate Roberts. Oops. Wrong movie. I meant to say she runs into a lot of digital effects.

Hemsworth is occupying a lot of screen space these days.

Few have seen the dark forest and survived. One of those few is the world’s hunkiest bitter old drunk, The Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth, who trades his Thor hammer for a battle axe in his quest to conquer the box office this Spring. Ravenna employs his services to hunt down Snow White, which he does, and if you don’t think he falls for White when he finally does catch her, you’ve never seen a movie.

The pair then set off on a quest to restore the kingdom, which brings them into contact with ogres, fairies, enchanted forests, mythical reindeer, poison apples, and, of course, seven dwarves, one of whom is played by the hilariously awesome Nick Frost, the most physically unattractive guy I’ve ever had a mancrush on.

Maybe it was Lord of the Rings-trilogy burnout, but since the credit roll at the (eventual) end of Return of the King, the very thought of swords, quests, and castles has conjured emotions in me similar to those evoked by pending abdominal surgery. These days, movies featuring medieval knights on horseback can make a guy look at his watch a few times, you know what I mean?

A big round of applause, then, for director Rupert Sanders and gang, who put together a visually captivating film with the magical quality that has been missing from the fantasy genre since Peter Jackson last made his mark on it. Readers of Brothers Grimm and other storytellers of ages past know that the original fairy tales are nothing like the 20th century Disney depictions but are rather dark and violent, and Snow White and the Huntsman is suitably gruesome in that regard. And in an era when every weekend brings a new film full of CG beasts and robots, Snow White’s impressive digital menagerie is a noteworthy accomplishment.

Lily Cole

As usual, Stewart does not render a particularly likeable character, but her anti-charisma has its own dark energy that draws the viewer’s eye whenever she is on screen. Co-star Hemsworth isn’t known for his acting chops, either, and he has little more to do than he does as Thor in the Marvel Comics films, which is to toss off one-liners and fight monsters. Still, he has the likeable quality of a summer movie hero. His Huntman’s “I ain’t got time for dames” attitude is old-school charming, like in a 1930s adventure film, and you can’t help but feel good when he finally gets to kick some ass.

A pleasant surprise was seeing British actress/model Lily Cole in a small part as Snow White’s fellow prisoner toward the beginning of the film. Cole has one of the most fascinating faces in the movie business, and here’s hoping this film leads to bigger parts. If Pixar ever decides to do a live action version of the upcoming Brave, the one about the round-faced archer with red hair and big blue eyes, Cole wouldn’t need to audition.

Snow White is not without flaws, the primary one of which is way too much story for the two hour runtime. Perhaps it’s because of modern audiences’ miniscule attention spans, but each character’s driving motivations are revealed in perfunctory fashion though one or two lines of expository dialog. For example, The Huntsman is a bitter drunk, we learn from a five-second clip of conversation early on, because his wife was killed. This does not come up again or have any bearing on the story until much later, when one of the villains says, “Oh, by the way. I’m the one who killed your wife,” at which point that villain is summarily dispatched and the story chugs along as before. Inigo Montoya’s hatred for the six-fingered man, it is not.

Speaking of villains… Charlize Theron, one of the more ravishing wicked witches to ever flicker across a movie screen, is OK but hardly great. She plays the role big, as it should be played, but big to her is not fun scenery chewing but a lot of screaming. I’m not a fan of shout-and-scream acting, because there’s always a better way to convey wickedness or anger. It’s like she’s playing a cross between Countess Elizabeth Bathory and herself when dealing with personal assistants, nannies, and the other human insects that are an unfortunate necessity in an A-list actress’s life.

Theron having a little quiet “me” time after all the screeching.

Nevertheless, Snow White and the Huntsman succeeds on the strength of its sumptuous visuals and its surprising ability to connect emotionally with the audience, the latter quality of which is typically lacking during blockbuster season in recent years. On the Chris Cramer scale, I give it a 67/100. Look at the line below to see what that means in the artsy, devil-may-care, live-in-the-moment world of James Killough.

Eric rates Snow White and the Huntsman as: 

11 Comments

Filed under Baker Street, Reviews

11 responses to “There’s Something About Kristen

  1. Eric, I just got home from seeing that same film at Arclight’s historic Cinerama Dome with my friend Lisa, where we were only a few rows back from our seats at the True Blood season 5 premiere a few days ago. I had a great time at both! Maybe the supernatural crazy shit is what it takes to get me into a cinema.
    I absolutely agree that there’s something about Kristen Stewart that is intriguing. Most of her dialogue both here and in the Twilight films I’ve seen is painfully whispered but it was funny when she had to consciously clear her throat to speak out loud for once. Unfortunately, her speech was probably the most poorly written part of the film.
    Also with you on Charlize Theron’s Ravenna character. She was very convincing when she was cool; not so much when she was losing her shit. And those costumes, intricate as they might have been, were waaaaay too much.
    I did appreciate the nods to Disney’s “Snow White”, which this clearly was not, with the little birds leading her to safety, the subtly shaded Dwarves characters (which was Dopey?, which was Sleepy?) and the collar of Queen Ravenna’s black feather cape that so perfectly recalled the old cartoon.
    All in all, I give it a WOW, too.

    • I’m not familiar enough with the cartoon to make those observations. Thanks, Mr. Tuttle, for the added value commentary production and costume design, which you do so well. If we all got our heads together, we could probably do the world’s greatest review of a given film.

  2. Well, all I can say is Wow, I can’t wait to see it. Even my 6-year-old niece was impressed. And it’s a first-time director. Astounding.

    As for the on-going complaints about our ratings system: percentages are for Rotten Tomatoes. We are posting just one person’s opinion, not factoring an average from thousands of movie fans. From my point of view, you are simply giving it 67 stars out of a 100. IMDb does it a little simpler with a decimal system between 1 and 10, but again they are averaging vast numbers of votes.

    For me, expressions and adjectives are a bit more evocative and honest than dry numbers or even stars, more suitable for the arts. You were wowed by SWATH, so you give it a wow rating. If it had been crap, you would’ve called it crap. Simple.

    • I’m not complaining. I like both systems. By poking fun at the contrast between them, I get to give both ratings, thus satisfying all types of readers. Way to make me reveal my tricks!

  3. Helen Beadleston

    Very funny Eric! I like your take on Kristen and couldn’t agree more! She might need an ‘auteur’ to bring out her nudity. James! You available?! Can you turn pewter into gold??

    • This is such a timely question with the casting of a certain new project in progress, and Stewart has been nagging the back of my mind. I really like her, have ever have since her crotch-smells speech in “Meet The Rileys.” I need to think on it a bit.

    • Lars VT got Kirtsen Dunst to show her boobs in Melancholia. Perhaps our own James Killough can one-up Lars and get Kristen to go the full monty. Lord knows, JK is not afraid to say controversial things.

  4. Juliette, Kristen is my Sun.

    Eric thank you for the review on this movie. I am so out of touch with what is “cool,” I once was cool,sincerely; but that which was cool changed. Now I am no longer cool and what is cool frightens me.
    Without this cutting edge article I would not know “Snow White from Shinola.”
    Thanks for the hard work and keyboard click-clacking you put into your articles. Killough must have you chained to a computer, with carrot cake on a stick.
    p.s Nice Image selection.

    Bryan

    • I’m not sure how cool this movie is, given it’s mainstream status and mainstream stars, but it is currently a hot topic of conversation online. I’m glad the article was informative.

      You are your own brand of weird cool that is like no one else’s. Don’t sell yourself short.

      The image selection was a collaborative effort between JK and me. He was able to dig into the vaults to come up with the lead image, which was better than anything I could find.

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