MALEFICENT (Roth Films/Walt Disney Pictures, 2014)

4 Dec

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 9.48.42 PM GENRE: Fantasy

HONORS: None Known

REVIEW: We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty. But the woman behind her fate has always been more of a mystery (and infinitely more interesting). Maleficent brings us the story of the fairy turned warrior—a sweet girl in love who was betrayed and sought vengeance, until she found an unexpected love herself. Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as the complex lead who defies easy categorization. She knows its wrong to care about a human boy, but she lets herself grow more deeply connected to Stefan. And while he loves her too, he gives it all up for a chance at power. Maleficent seeks revenge by cursing Stefan’s baby daughter, but as time marches to her sixteenth birthday when the curse is realized, Maleficent decides true love is possible, but not always with whom you thought. And even with a fairy tale ending, Maleficent is still a satisfyingly edgy take on the traditional fairy tale.

OPINION: Dark, brooding, and with a fairy tale feminist bent, Maleficent shows that good and evil is an overly simplistic construct that always needs a back story. Jolie is subtly brilliant as Maleficent, imbuing a shrug or light flip of the hand with many layers of meaning. And the scene where she discovers that Stefan has brutally cut off her wings is so good, it’s painful to watch. We truly feel the depth of her physical and emotional pain. The other original and meaningful part of the story is how the idea of “true love” plays out. In fairy tales, true love is between a princess and her prince. But here, true love is about the caring you feel for another person—their humanity drives the feeling. Maleficent’s final realization of her love for Aurora is moving (and we’re relieved that Prince Phillip isn’t the quick fix we’ve all come to expect from fairy tale love stories). Great sets, costumes, and make-up take this movie to an even higher level. Perhaps it’s a sign of other powerful women stories to come.

IDEAS: Especially for teen girls, this movie is a really interesting counterpart to true stories of “bad” or “evil” women throughout history and could be watched in conjunction with reading Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains.

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