April 7, 2012

USA: Julia Roberts - Is this the last chapter in a Hollywood fairy tale?

LONDON, England / The Telegraph / Culture / Film / April 7, 2012


The highest-paid actress in movie history is at a difficult age. Can the role of the Evil Queen in her new film, Mirror Mirror, save her career?


Julia Roberts in Mirror, Mirror


In her new movie, Mirror Mirror, an inventive reworking of the Snow White story, Julia Roberts plays the Evil Queen, pursued by advancing age, losing her looks and uncertain if anyone still likes her. Oddly, a number of reviewers have wondered what it was that attracted Ms Roberts to the part.
Here, the Grimm Brothers’ core themes of jealousy, power and usurpation have a particular smack of relevance. In a few weeks, a rival version of the same fairytale – Snow White and the Huntsman – starring Charlize Theron as the Queen, will reach the cinema circuit. Hollywood hasn’t been so excited over a face-off since Mission to Mars went up against The Red Planet.

There’s no doubt Ms Roberts has the most to lose. At 44, she is past the age when any actress’s stardom can be sustained by glamour or past box-office returns. What beckons is the cruel world of character parts and cameos – or, as Kathleen Turner put it: “The discovery of whether anyone thinks you can act or not.” Ms Roberts, although comfortably the highest-paid female star in movie history, hasn’t had a great run in recent years, and there are worrying signs that the studios are no longer sure what to do with her.
Her take on Snow White also takes some ripe liberties with the story. The Queen taxes her subjects to the brink of starvation in order to pay for expensive beauty treatments, which she hopes will persuade the handsome – and loaded – Prince Alcott to fall in love with her. Instead, the Prince falls for the imprisoned Snow White (played by Lily Collins, daughter of rock star Phil) who suffers the Queen’s cruel vengeance, but is rescued by the Seven Dwarves who teach ''Snow’’ (this being a first-name fairyland) deadly martial arts techniques and help her win back the kingdom.
It is tempting to conclude – as some have – that Julia is spiritedly sending herself and Hollywood up, and that within the loopiness of this refashioned fable are some pertinent comments on the movie business’s, and, for that matter, the world’s fixation with youth and beauty. Ms Roberts’s lines bristle with bittersweet jibes about vanishing looks and the unfair competition posed to older women by newer, prettier rivals: “Blah, blah, blah…” scoffs the Queen, “her hair isn’t black, it’s raven, and she’s 18 years old, and her skin has never seen the sun, so of course it’s good.” Read more
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012

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