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May 28, 2015

Maleficent (2014)
Director: Robert Stromberg
Actors: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley

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Synopsis: Maleficent (Ella Purnell, Isobelle Molloy, Angelina Jolie) is a fairy that lives in The Moors – a peaceful, magical land. One day she chances upon Stefan (Michael Higgins, Sharlto Copley) a commoner from the land of men and they share a romance. In a conflicted state, Stefan clips Maleficent’s wings so he can become King of his land, but an embittered Maleficent promises revenge on Stefan, and issues the famous curse on his daughter, Aurora (Vivienne Pitt-Jolie, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Elle Fanning), that she will become a ‘sleeping beauty’ before her 16th birthday when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel….

Review: One part Frozen, the other part Avatar, Robert Stromberg’s riffing on the origin of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a sweet, amiable film, helped in no small part through finding the ideal outlet for the iconographic potential of Angelina Jolie. It’s also not afraid to safeguard some of the quaint romance and fantasy from its revisionist fairytale remit, and it creates a genuinely arresting visual landscape – if not necessarily through the so-so CGI, but in its lovely contrast between the light and dark worlds which compliments the struggle between good and evil in both the narrative and the central characters’ psyches.

At the risk of sounding a touch blithe, Maleficent really is the optimum role for Angelina Jolie. Being an actress who struggles to project much in the way of range or an inner-depth in most of her adult performances, Maleficent’s stately, otherworldly quality suits Jolie’s imperious but depthless aesthetic perfectly. Also, without being too smug and self-congratulatory in its postmodern fairytale musings, Maleficent conveys aptly the benefits of slightly flipping the simplistic paradigms of most children’s stories: What if Maleficent was actually wronged and persecuted by the human race? What if the King wasn’t a uniformly heroic character but actually showed a very human susceptibility to power and corruption? These digressions shed a novel light on their over-familiar stories, without losing the uplifting, fablistic ethos in the process. (May 2015)

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