GO ASK ALICE “Alice In Wonderland”, reviewed
by Gregory A. Butler
Back in 1985, cartoonist Alison Bechdel came up with a simple test to determine if a film was pro feminist; 1) It has to have at least two women in it, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something besides a man.
Sadly, many Hollywood blockbusters fail the Bechdel Test.
But Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” is NOT one of those films – it passes the test with flying colors.
That unique auteur and screenwriter Linda Wolverton updated Lewis Carol’s famed stories, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”, to have Alice Kingsleigh (young and very talented Australian actor Mia Wasikowska) returning to Wonderland 13 years after her original adventures.
Alice is 19 now (unmarried and, by the reactionary standards of the day, virtually an “old maid” doomed to a life of spinsterhood), but, at the elaborate stiff Victorian garden party where she was supposed to announce her engagement to some lame upper class guy, the White Rabbit (the voice of Michael Sheen) comes to her rescue and leads her back down the rabbit hole.
Alice (who throughout most of the film thinks this is one long dream) revisits the sites of her childhood adventures – in front of a truly amazing part live action part CGI backdrop channeled straight from the wild imagination of the great Tim Burton – but with a whole new adult twist.
Every step of the way, Alice is challenging the straightjacket (or more accurately, corset) that suffocated the will and imagination of women in 19th century England – symbolized in part by the frantic effort of all the characters to cover her nude body when her size changes and she outgrows – or outshrinks – her outfits.
The film climaxes with Alice becomes her own “knight in shining armor”, becomes the champion of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and takes on Jabberwocky (the voice of the great Christopher Lee), the monster of the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter with an unbelievable makeup job).
In the end, despite the pleas of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) that she stay on, Alice returns home, ready to forge an independent path in live in an era when respectable young ladies just didn’t do that!
All in all, Alice In Wonderland is an amazing film – right up there with Tim Burton’s best – and, in an age when women are still second class citizens in the motion picture world, it shows that you can make a film about women where it isn’t all about husband hunting – yes, the ladies can be adventurers and heroes too!
On a scale of 1 to 10 (one is unwatchably bad – 10 is incredibly awesome) I give Alice In Wonderland a 9.96
Also, if you live in the greater New York City metropolitan area, I urge you to get down to the Museum of Modern Art before April 26, to see the Tim Burton exhibition. It’s a retrospective of his career from childhood, through his years at Disney right up to Alice In Wonderland it has to be seen to be believed.
It’s only $ 20 bucks and, because so many folks want to see it, you’ll have to register for tickets online: http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/313 but you owe it to yourself to check it out!
A few quick thoughts on the 82nd Academy Awards (or at least the Big Six – do you really care about the other Oscars?):
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: as much as I like Mo’Nique as an actress, “Precious” is a deeply racist and offensive film (all the moreso because African Americans produced and directed this vile piece of poverty porn that demonized poor African Americans so harshly) so I really cannot support her here.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: “Inglorious Basterds” was an amazing film, and Christoph Weitz did a great job playing the Nazi villain role. This Austrian TV actor – in his first major English speaking role – did the job and did it well, he deserves the statuette.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: my objection is the same as with Mo’Nique – Sandra Bullock is a great performer, but “The Blind Side” was a very racist movie, so I can’t support her here.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Jeff Bridges was good in “Crazy Heart”, but George Clooney was far superior in “Up in the Air” - Clooney should have been the one with the little statue.
DIRECTOR: Katheryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) made history as the first woman director to ever get the statuette (and that’s kind of pathetic that it took this long) – AND she beat out her ex husband, James Cameron (“Avatar”)!
And just a few seconds later…
BEST PICTURE: …”The Hurt Locker” beat “Avatar” and 8 other pictures – and it deserved it, a simple story about men and war – showing the triumphs and tears of 3 US Army bomb disposal technicians in Baghdad. I’m actually happier that “Avatar” lost – yeah, it made more money, but as an artwork it’s all big bucs and technology, at the expense of character development, plot and storyline.
Big ups to Ms Bigelow – and to all the other winners.