Saying I’m not a supporter of Catherine Hardwicke is an understatement. I’ve not been a fan of any of her films besides Thirteen, and that was more due to content not to how it was shot, organized and played out. You’d think a retelling of Red Riding Hood would be something that she needs to maybe step-back and revitalize her role as a director. Twilight was sloppily done, and while I’m not a fan of the Twilight series-story-wise (sorry, they aren't my cup of tea, much like Star Wars possibly isn't much of yours), I have much respect for those who directed the later films. They were well directed films. (Heck, I'll admit New Moon was actually mildly entertaining. Sue me.)
Again, we have a situation where the film’s failure is more on the director and her choice of style of camera movement and sometimes sequences that I can’t ever dream of being on the page. The film itself is Red Riding Hood, starring Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen and Gary Oldman.
With such an amazing cast, you’d figure that the film wouldn’t stink as it does. And while the cast does succeed in selling most of what is given them, there are more than a few times where the choices of Hardwicke really ruin the piece, and make it a bit of a mockery, enough that I did giggle a few times in a ‘WTF’ moment. The only one who walks out of this film mostly unscathed is Lukas Haas and Gary Oldman.
The story is quite simple enough: Valerie is a girl who has always loved Peter. (ha ha, get it? Peter as in Peter and the Wolf ha ha oh wait. That’s not funny, nor clever.) But Valerie is betrothed to Henry. Add to this little tale of teen-woe, her village has been attacked by ‘an wolf’ and until the death of her sister (who we find secretly liked Henry) was M.I.A. for close to twenty years. When The wolf does come, all kinds of chaos ensues. But the movie takes a darker turn when Oldman’s Solomon, a hunter of demonic beings, like lycans (werewolves), witches and vampires. Solomon is by any means, a typical film character that believes so much in what he hunts, he becomes cruel, if not worse than the monster he hunts. Seen in plenty of films and tv shows, (ahem, in real life we had peeps like this too. Uh, hello, the Salem Witch Trials?) this character is so bloodthirsty, he ends up hurting more people then saving. Oldman relishes it, and for good reason. The role is not meaty but with what little he does, his presence is very spot on, and Oldman makes you feel like despite such a cliché, he is a monstrous one. Haas’s role as the minister, a man of God trying to do good for his village by inviting Oldman’s Solomon, only to see that his means of help is not ‘what he signed up for’ is also well played but too short.
Despite such neat things such as Haas and Oldman trying desperately to shape the film with a few other performances as well from Julie Christie and Michael Hogan, it is here where the film becomes a ‘horror-who-dunnit’ which, if you pay close attention, is easy to solve. It is only the twist of the film, intermixed with odd love-scenes that just feel so out of place, it makes me gag. Poor Amanda Seyfried had to wonder why those were added to production, after suffering a similar fate on the film Jennifer's Body when it comes to adding a lesbian kiss that wasn’t in the initial draft of the shooting script and depending on some sites and interviews, was added during filming or reshoots. Seyfrield does do a decent job, but again the direction of the film is where I take offense. I had a similar problem with just the framing of shots, the role of a director is to make you forget that you’ve seen shots before, and the truth is, with more than 20 films a year, way more independently done, almost every shot that has been done has been done. It’s the way the film’s pace, tone and everything else flows together that makes you forget this.
Hardwicke’s big ‘move’ was during intense scenes, doing extreme close-ups, rushing the camera with a gust of wind blowing in the focus character’s hair. It was like a god damn normal part of any shot that moved that involved Gary Oldman. And also random musical queues with odd close-ups that feel out of place, or from a different part of the movie, that seem silly. While a big clue to the identity of the wolf is apparent in an eye color, random shots of people’s faces and eyes seem odd and weird, as that particular piece of information is not something we are privy to yet. And it not only takes you out of the film, but you laugh at it. And more than once did I illicit a quiet giggle or 'ut'.
And there is that ending. That god-awful ending. ***SPOILER ALERT***
ahem. All those who hate spoilers gone? Okay? Good.
I get that she ‘gets’ with the wolf, but really? Ugh. Did we need to see shots of her getting her happy ending of running away with the person who now is the wolf, but intermixed with crossfades of her getting it on with the guy? It just seems very out of place.
Or maybe I was too hard on the film. Maybe it didn't stink up the place, or, not as bad as I let on. But there were some definite director-made MST3K moments in the film that just don’t add up at first and by that point when they do, internally you can’t take the film that seriously. Despite all this, while on the surface as per the trailer, Red Riding Hood seems nothing but dreck, the film is actually somewhat serviceable, but as mind-numbing pop-corn-based entertainment. I’d never purposely waste money on the film, maybe wait for cable or netflix but then again, maybe the film isn’t ‘meant’ for me. As I saw the film with a female friend of mine, she did note that this film wasn’t made for me. (granted she expected it to be better too.) And I’d point out that the film Beastly wasn’t either, and I enjoyed that actually, but then again….
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