Friday, February 07, 2020

Gretel & Hansel (2020)

Who's in it?: Sophia Lillis (It, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase), Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Deadwood), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Underground), and Charles Babalola (The Legend of Tarzan, Mary Magdalene)

What's it about?: The story of Hansel and Gretel retold to focus on Gretel's coming of age.

How is it?Gretel & Hansel is a cool idea. Rather than have the kids be twins and more or less the same age, Gretel is a teenager and Hansel is her little brother, probably around eight-years-old. When they're kicked out of their home by their widowed mother, that puts Gretel in the position of making sure that she and her brother survive. Hearing about a community on the other side of the forest, Gretel leads Hansel in that direction, hoping that they can find work and a new life.

Just on a superficial level, I'm not in love with the production design on the film. The art department is clearly going for something in particular, but the simple costumes and clean lines of the architecture aren't my preferred aesthetic. Especially for a story based on a fairy tale, and a dark fairy tale like this one, I would have loved to see creepier, more ornate designs: baroque or gothic. I'd feel differently if I could tell what this specific design does for the story, but I can't. Maybe I just haven't figured it out yet. That's possible, because there are definitely thematic elements that I haven't quite put together either.

The forest locations look great though. I love every second that the characters are in the woods.

But even though the look of the film doesn't always connect with me, I appreciate the thought that's gone into the story and what themes can be coaxed out of it. I said "coming of Age" in the summary above, but that doesn't satisfactorily summarize it. Gretel & Hansel sees growing up as a dark, violent process and not just because of the loss of Innocence. Growing up inherently means severing ties with family. Not necessarily completely, but it's still a process that involves some pain. There's a lot that Gretel & Hansel wants to say about that and I wasn't able to follow it every step of the way. I'm not sure if that's my fault or the film's, but I'd enjoy revisiting it at some point to see.

Certainly the cast is perfect for me from Borg Queen Alice Krige as one aspect of the Witch, Jessica De Gouw (whom I loved in Underground) as another, and Nancy Drew / It Girl Sophia Lillis as Gretel. Charles Babalola plays a huntsman they meet early on. I didn't recognize him, but he's been in some stuff I love and deserves mentioning.

Rating: Three out of five woodland witches

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