Into the Woods

August 2, 2015

into the woods 1 elitere“Careful the wish you make/ Wishes are children./ Careful the path they take/ Wishes come true, not free.”

I’m not sure if I am a fan of musicals. I mean, I usually love the songs I find, but it’s not often that I am patient enough to watch the whole thing. I knew of Into the Woods when Mihaela asked me to write about it (months ago… sorry, love), but I didn’t know I will be dealing with a musical. I watched it a couple of days after the request came and now is the time to write about it. There will be spoilers here and there, so be careful.

The film was released in 2014 (the title was translated in Romanian as În inima pădurii) and it was directed by Rob Marshall. He worked with Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music for the 1986 musical bearing the same name (book by James Lapine). I admit, I did not expect something like this from Disney, but I am so happy to have watched it. I love how well-known fairytales are once again brought back to life, the casting is amazing and the songs… they could have been sung better, but it’s still an enjoyable experience.

I remember getting bored towards the end, it feels like it’s a bit too long, so I needed to pause it a couple of times. But, overall, I truly liked the film. So… Once upon a time some Grimm fairytales were put together and their characters sent, for different reasons, into the woods mentioned in the title. There is a narrator (the Baker, as we’ll discover) who introduces these characters: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, the Baker, his wife and a few others. What they have in common is the fact that each of them has a wish. That’s not out of the ordinary, right? The thing is, even as you see the poster for the film, one line stands out: Be careful what you wish for. The musical pokes fun at fairytales and yes, you will find yourself laughing here and there… but it has a rather dark touch to it, sometimes visible, other times lurking in the distance. A wish might come true, but do the characters actually know what they need?

There is a song towards the end and a part of it is this: “sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods/ do not let it grieve you/ no one leaves for good/ you are not alone”. I enjoyed the film not because it is the best I’ve seen, it isn’t, but because there’s something touching in this mass of magic, wishes and darkness. Every character has a story to tell, we are shown once again that there is never only one side to said story and that into the woods 2 eliteremorality is more often than not relative (“you decide what’s right, you decide what’s good”). Fairytales usually end with “and they all lived happily ever after”. Alright, but what happens when someone actually looks further, beyond that happy ending.

We’ll see poverty, death and a sexual undertone. For instance, Depp’s wolf is deeply disturbing. And Cinderella’s prince deserves to be punched in the face. As we deserve to see more princes ripping their shirts open while singing in a river (thank you, Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen!). Also, I’ve grown used to characters whose qualities are emphasised, but here it’s the other way around. We do see what’s good in them, but we are also shown a rather familiar, less flattering side. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), for instance, wishes to go to the ball (and she does), but she cannot decide whether to stay and face the prince or not. Will they be together? Her choice is to leave a shoe behind so that the next step would be taken by him.

Happy endings are not guaranteed especially because we cannot speak of an ending per se. Cinderella realises that she is in love with a faraway prince, while Prince Charming loves the maiden who ran away. They love ideal figures and are not quite ready to go deeper and accept what they find there. Also, people die, but life goes on. The idea that family is important, that friends will be there to offer help… that’s still obvious, just presented in a slightly different way than what we might expect from Disney. There is too much happening before the final once upon a time is uttered and you know that the characters won’t leave the woods unchanged.

What else? I love the soundtrack, it reminds me a lot of Sweeney Todd. Also, the imagery and the way the woods look is lovely. Darkness cannot be ignored and the contrast between the woods and the world around this mysterious place is highlighted by the colours and the transition from light and a normal village rooted in reality to shadows and a world of magic, where anything can happen. Have I mentioned that James Corden is the one who plays the baker aka the narrator? Yes, now I want to rewatch Doctor Who episodes. Again. I don’t know if there into the woods 3 elitere streepdailyare any poems (or audiobooks) read by him, but I’ll see what I can find. His voice goes well with this particular story, so why shouldn’t we get more?    

Final note: I’ve seen this film only once and, as much as I admire quite a few actors who starred in it, I’d watch it again for Meryl Streep. I love how she played the witch, how she sang and… I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about her performance. Even if I hated Into the Woods (not possible, by the way), I’d still watch it for her. So, what do you think about the musical?

Image source: 3 – streepdaily

by Elena Atudosiei

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6 Responses to Into the Woods

  1. Mihaela on August 2, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Ah! The review is here at last. :) I’ve been wanting to read your input about this movie and I haven’t been let down. I do agree with you that the movie was quite long, I paused it along the way as well. The first part, where they all get their so called happy endings was a bit cheesy and I thought at first “Why am I watching this again?”. Then, the second part of the movie was really interesting. We got to see the flaws of the characters and how they face the challenges of life. The Witch, who seemed evil at first, we found out that she wasn’t as bad as we might think and that was truly gratifying. The annoying prince (I don’t like Chris Pine, by the way) who was annoying in the first part was even more annoying in the second. I felt sorry for the baker’s wife. She was the one who had remorse but had to die and I don’t think that it’s fair. But I get why it had to happen in the end.
    Also, if you like James Corden I suggest you watch “The Wrong Mans” where he plays alongside Matt Baynton. They both worked on the script of the show together and it’s a quite intriguing story.
    Thank you for the review!

    • Elena Atudosiei on August 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      “The Wrong Mans”? I’ll look it up, I’d love to see another film with James Corden. About “Into the Woods”… I couldn’t believe it when the baker’s wife died. I liked that character and she was gone in a moment. It saddened me, but I understand why it was done.

      Next time you have a request, I promise to write the article faster, if I am home. I love your ideas!

  2. Noexis on September 19, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I honestly didn’t expect to find this here… ok this is a big fat lie, although I was a bit started. But thank you for bringing it! I couldn’t help but place side by side the messages of this movie with the real world we all live in. “You’re all so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice. I’m not good, I’m not bad, I’m just right.” I love so so much these wordds from Meryl Streep. In real life, all we aim for is to be ‘nice’; to be in the good side with everyone without any collateral damage, often denying, blurring, or even avoiding the truth, pain and consequences. This is where “The Witch”, a being of utter magical powers comes in. We can clearly see thaat every action has its consequence; every wish and desire a price, even towards herself. Our characters lack realism, which Streep (even as a witch) shows and provides to each character. They all live in a sort of stupor, a state of surrealism in which they don’t realize that besides all the magic and dreams, there’s also a world; a world with pain, deep hard decisions, grief, hatred, fear. But she also shows us that there’s also love, resilience and strength about us. I liked the movie, but I daresay that there is probably not one character that provides both the characters and the viewers with a realistic lesson as straightforward and groundbreaking as Meryl Streep has done in this movie.

    • Elena Atudosiei on September 19, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      How could you not expect it, woman? It’s been waiting for you! I said it before, I’d watch the film again for Meryl Streep, I loved her role.

      • Noexis on September 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

        I was almost asleep when I wrote this, which is the equivalent of drunk in this side of the world. mercy, I beg thee! It was such a great movie, all because of Meryl. I love every single one of her songs and, of course, the “Agony” -cough cough- that delirious Pine makes us go through. 😉

        • Elena Atudosiei on September 20, 2015 at 6:40 am

          “Agony” really was… something 😉 Ah, those two! I can’t remember what they were saying, though. Just silly grins and ripped shirts. But that’s enough for that particular bit for now. Hm… I think I’ll listen to the song again.

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