Friday, November 28, 2014

INTO THE WOODS, Look for Pine

Thanksgiving Day, I was invited to see a special screening of Into The Woods here in New York City. This will not be a long-form review.  But I will tell you that director Rob Marshall should be proud of himself.  It's his best film since Chicago, Oscar winner for Best Picture of 2002.

Will Meryl Streep get her 65th Oscar nomination?  I strongly believe so.  She's thrilling, touching, frightening and funny as The Witch.  The big revelation in this film version of a Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical comedy is Chris Pine as The Prince.  He's currently in Horrible Bosses 2.  When he was promoting that comedy sequel as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel's late night ABC show this week, Kimmel complimented Pine on his singing talent.  Kimmel said that Pine's singing voice is so good that it's a surprise.
It sure is.  Man, that dude can sing!  His comedy duet with a rival handsome prince ("Agony") is a highlight in a movie that has several highlights.
Also, let's face it -- Chris Pine is so handsome that he looks like a Disney factory creation.  And he sits a horse well.  Into The Woods is a Disney production.  Hardcore Star Trek fans know that Pine has played young Captain Kirk in Star Trek movies.
I bet Into The Woods, which opens on Christmas Day, will put the movie career of Chris Pine on the fast track and make him a hot guy to get on the Red Carpet.  Pine is perfect as Cinderella's Prince.  His character is movie star gorgeous and delightfully shallow ("I was raised to be charming, not sincere.")  This Pine stands out in the woods.
As for Meryl Streep, she's also surprising.  I'm pretty sure that, in her youth, she wanted to be an opera singer before she settled on acting.  She has sung in previous films.  She sings a rousing barroom number in Ironweed, her 1987 drama co-starring Jack Nicholson.  She sings again in 1989's Postcards From The  Edge.  In Mike Nichols' film adaptation of the Carrie Fisher novel, with a screenplay by Carrie Fisher, Streep sang the tune that got an Oscar nomination for Best Song -- "I'm Checkin' Out."  I believe that Streep was eager to star in a film version of the hit Broadway musical drama, Evita.  But producers eventually decided to cast a non-actress in the lead.

I saw Into The Woods with its original Broadway cast here in New York City back in the 1980s.  Hearing Streep sing "Stay With Me" was like hearing it for the first time.  And hearing the power of her singing voice -- wow.  Watch this Disney trailer.
James Corden and Emily Blunt give shining performances as The Baker and his wife.  They're a childless couple.  The Witch can make their parenthood dreams come true.

Emily Blunt -- what lovely performance!  This film reunited her with Meryl Streep.  They previously played intimidating boss and snarky assistant in The Devil Wears Prada.


Using fairy tales and their lessons as its foundation, Sondheim's genius and wise lyrics direct our attention to parent/child relationships.  This is done so movingly that, ever since the Broadway show, I've listened to songs from it and wondered what Stephen Sondheim's relationship with his mother and father was like.  Were they loving?  Were they distant?  Were they supportive?  Into The Woods may introduce a new generation to the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim, brilliance we are lucky still to have with us.

Rob Marshall's Into The Woods opens on Christmas Day.  I will be seeing it again.

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