Friday, January 9, 2015

Into the Woods

When the weather is this cold, all that makes sense is to hunker down and eat a great deal. Meat. Cheese. Bread. Lots and lots of chocolate. And - of course - to drink red wine, though merely for one's health. If I roll out of winter, healthy but extremely round, you'll know why.

Another way to escape the howl of the winds - the movies. This afternoon I went to "Into the Woods,"  the Sondheim musical made into a film. I wasn't expecting much - I am not a huge Sondheim fan, much to the dismay of my musical-loving friends. He's an undisputed genius of musical theatre but too cynical and intellectual for me, too cold and clever. At least, that's what I've always thought.

But this film - I loved it. It's full of heart and wit and wisdom, not to mention Meryl Streep having a grand time as a wicked witch who's really a forlorn mother and daughter. Sondheim takes famous Grimm's fairy tales - Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and weaves them into a morality tale about issues that concern us all: weak sons anxious about the legacy of their flawed fathers, young women overpowered by romantic fantasies, mothers who are selfishly overprotective, mothers who are loving but overly critical ... been there, done that.

All this with groundbreaking music and lyrics, wonderful settings and cinematography - and mostly, again, superb performances. I am seriously in love once more. No, not with Johnny Depp as the wicked wolf, not James Corden, adorable as he is, as our hero the baker who learns to be strong and take charge, or with either of the handsome princes.

Emily Blunt. I now have a serious thing for Emily Blunt, who plays the Baker's Wife. She's stunning, sings like a dream, and is just - glorious. I remember her intelligence and grace from "Young Victoria" but here she soars.
The musical has been criticized for the "second act," where the sweet soufflé of fantasy and happy endings takes a dark turn with the arrival of an angry giantess. But that's what makes it worthwhile - that it resonates deeply.

The NYT talked about "the gospel according to Sondheim," which appears in his song "The Children are Listening":
Careful the things you say/ children will listen/ Careful the things you do/children will see/ and learn. /We are listening.

When you hear about Sondheim's own childhood, with a mother so vicious she told him once her main regret was having him, the song is more moving than ever. Highly recommended.

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