Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Look or Three at Red Riding Hood

     If getting caught with one of the sinus infections Nashville is famous for has any benefit, that would be getting caught up on movie-watching. Among this months fare on HBO is Catherine Hardwicke's retelling of the fairytale classic Red Riding Hood, with the luminous Amanda Seyfried in the title role. When the previews were first around I had some interest in this movie, as Hardwicke was the director of the first Twilight movie and was dropped from the second in that series, claiming, as I recall from the news stories at the time, she was at odds with Summit over the rush to cash in and get New Moon finished.

     In my review of Twilight it was Hardwicke's striking visuals that saved the movie from being an utter joke. Not surprising, then, that Red Riding Hood would be equally striking to watch. Also, like Twilight, the movie's score and soundtrack merge for a lush experience both visually and aurally.

       Unlike Twilight, movie critics aren't falling all over themselves to try to be fair in their reviews. Is the story weak? Well come on - what do you want from a fairy tale?

     Hardwicke's spin on the Grimm tale has the big bad wolf coming for young Red, but this time, he doesn't want to lunch on Red (or Valerie, as she's named in this version) and be done with it. He comes during a "blood moon," a rare full moon event wherein a werewolf can reproduce, so to speak, and create another of his (or her) kind, and this werewolf wants Valerie as Lucy to his Vlad.

        Acting? Let's say it's adequate. Scenery chewer Gary Oldman does everything asked of a veteran actor sent in to lend credibility and some small pathos to a role that could easily have gone 100% straight camp, as the heavyweight Medieval cleric come to aid in hunting/killing the wolf and ends up witch-hunting. Seyfried isn't asked to do much beyond stand around looking mysterious and sexy and vulnerable and wise beyond her years. Her typical line is no longer than five words. Most often, she's reduced simply to calling people out: "Peter?" "Henry?" "Father?" "Grandmother?" With dialog like that, perhaps underplaying it even more is a virtue.

       Most of the movie deals with Valerie's dilemma about the wolf: just who is it presenting the danger to her and her village? Her childhood sweetheart, a poor woodcutter? The wealthy blacksmith's son who she finds herself engaged to? Perhaps Grandma, with those big teeth? And about that wolf - is it her doom, or her salvation?

      Among all the vivid imagery in Red Riding Hood that stands out is the repeated use of long, pointy things. Pointy teeth. Pointy things on trees (above pic). Pointy things on doors and on gates. Pointy knives. It becomes overkill. If one is going to compare Red Riding Hood to Hardwicke's previous blockbuster, though, you can at least get a chuckle at the visual stab at Twilight's chastity.