Monday, March 2, 2009

Sweeney Todd

So....Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The subtitle immediately gives one an idea of what to expect. I've never seen Sweeney Todd before, or heard the music, though I've known many who speak well of it. So I finally gave it a whirl. I was surprised to learn (via the special feature documentary) that this was supposedly Johnny Depp's and Helena Bonham Carter's first foray into singing...and musical theater.

My first thought was of the little snippets of "Yo ho, yo ho" from Pirates that we've heard Johnny do. But still, quite a risk for the director/producers to sign them on as unknown variables...yet it seems that happens often and gold is struck. (cast of LOTR? hello?)

Oh, and I didn't realize that Alan Rickman and Sacha Baren Cohen were onboard...nice surprises, performed their roles extremely well. I recognized Timothy Spall from Last Samurai and Hamlet.

Now, I suppose it's no surprise that I like the music, seeing as how big a fan I am of Into the Woods. The fact that Depp and Carter aren't the most skilled or experienced voices actually helps I think, lending the rawness/realness to their characters. The acting was perfect...Depp was uber-creepy. I think my favorite part is the opening scene as the boat sails into London Harbor. There is such a poignant mixture of pain, sorrow, and rage on Todd's face.

As for the weaknesses...I've seen many a violent action flick, yet there was something about the assembly-line throat-slitting and brain-splatting (esp. the last 15 minutes or so) that prevented me from enjoying the story. The story itself loses its pace during the last act and the characters seem a bit bereft of purpose and progression.

I know that in a traditional "tragedy" sense, that you can't expect a happy ending (and I wasn't), but perhaps I was expecting one that had a point at the end aside from "never forget, never forgive" and uhh...I guess madness ends in ruin for all? There's truth in the angst felt by all of the characters, but there's little redeeming value in the audience's ability to glean any wisdom or warning.

This is all still mostly gut-reaction, I'm sure if I studied the show and read up on it and knew something about psychology, etc. I'd be able to make a more intelligent analysis.

So I like Sweeney Todd for the music, acting, style...but I wonder if it would be possible to tell the story, and communicate the angst, rage, sorrow, etc. without the gore? At the least, I'm desiring to at least get the soundtrack.