drwex (drwex) wrote,

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We saw "Maleficent" and it was... ?feminist?

I was hesitant about seeing this movie despite it being an Angelina Jolie vehicle (she's credited as producer as well as starring). But it's a Disney film and I'm fond of saying that Disney could ruin a wet dream.

They have a less than stellar record of depicting women, both adult and children. Adult women often appear in Disney films as villains (wicked, mean, abusive), or are heartless and neglectful, or are simply absent so their absence can be remarked on as a further fault. Young women often appear in Disney films as princesses, dainty things, objects of male characters' attentions, goals to be sought and so on.

Disney movies too often epitomize the notion of "objectification" of women - that is, rendering women into objects that appear in other peoples' stories rather than subjects who have meaningful parts to play, with their own stories to be told. So when I heard that this was a Disney remake of Sleeping Beauty... well, you can see where I might not be that enthusiastic. The writing credits involve 11 people, which is almost always a sign of a disaster. When a studio doesn't like a script they'll often get other writers in; when writers are out of their depth they'll ask for help. The result can be a horrible mish-mash of everyone's ideas. Again, not an encouraging sign.

All that said, I think the film did very well. The story is mostly not what you typically hear in a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Instead, it's a story about what leads up to the events of the fairy tale. Who is this woman (Maleficent) that she becomes involved with the young princess? Who is the princess, really, as a person?

The power of this movie is in the way it moves these characters to center stage and how their stories get told. We start with Maleficent as a young girl - props to Isobelle Molloy as young Maleficent and then Ella Purnell as teen Maleficent for being great warm-up acts for Jolie to follow. Starting this way lets us not only see her complexities but understand and feel with her as she respond to betrayal and injury with anger and vengeance.

If I have any dig at the movie it's that the script gives short shrift to the moment when Aurora herself discovers she has been betrayed. The parallels of emotional experience between her response and Maleficent's response could have been better played. Instead, the movie hurries past that moment in order to give us the inevitable fulfillment of the curse and final epic battle.

The rest of the movie is OK - dialog is good, fairy creatures are good, CGI is good (if a little too obvious in places) but I think you're going to like or dislike this film based on how you respond to the way the script treats Maleficent's and Aurora's stories. Which might just be the most subversive thing I've ever seen in a Disney film.
Tags: movie, review
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