Monday, December 24, 2007

Raindrop Review: SWEENEY TODD

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd
He served a dark and an angry God.

Tim Burton's vision of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece is dark and angry. Johnny Depp is brooding, empty, fueled by revenge. Helena Bonham Carter is surprisingly (to me) wonderful as Mrs. Lovett. And I am completely in love with this film.

Now, you must understand that I wanted to love this film. Sweeney Todd is one of my very favorite musicals and Sondheim is a god as far as I'm concerned. His skill of sculpting beauty out of rhyme and his gorgeous melodies have always captured my ear and my heart. And Sweeney Todd is his finest work, imho. The sweetest songs come out of the vilest beings from "Not While I'm Around" to "Pretty Women". (on a side note...I can die happy. Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp singing Pretty Women made me so very happy....) The lyrics are clever and poetic. And the music drives us forward to the inevitable, bloody, sad, ending.

Now to the movie itself. From the first blast of the organ and bloody raindrops falling on a cartoon London to the last pool of blood, the film is bloody. But it should be bloody. This is a bloody tale of revenge and lost innocence and lies and pain. Yet it is remarkably funny. Black humor to be sure. And no one but Tim Burton could adapt this musical so well. He has used all his skill as a director to visually move the story along. And it everything serves the music, which it should. While the vocal chorus is absent from the film, the music is still there, driving us from moment to moment.

Performances are top notch. Depp, Bonham Carter, and Rickman are all perfect in tone and style. Timothy Spall is perfectly awful as the Beedle. Sasha Baron Cohen is wonderful comic relief. And newcomers Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower are lovely and hopeful as the young lovers. Wisener has the voice and face of an angel and it is easy to believe in loving her at first sight. Sweet little Ed Sanders handles my favorite song, Not While I'm Around, with wonderful voice and great maturity.

Ahead there be spoilers....

There were things I missed from the stage production. I wished there were more of the interplay between Lucy(the beggar woman) and Sweeney. Gives that final "Don't I know you?" a bit more punch. The staging where you can see Sweeney killing the Beedle above and know that Toby is about to get a nasty awakening in the cellar doesn't work quite as well for me. And I do miss the chorus - at least some of the song could have been included...perhaps at the opening or at over the credits. But these are minor points. I loved it. One of my favorite movies this year, to be sure. And a favorite for a long, long time.

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