It’s always appealing to me when a filmmaker sets out to do something unique knowing it will more than likely be polarizing. It fascinates me how David Lynch and Gaspar Noe have films that I both enjoy and others I find to be a chore when watching. After watching Gretel and Hansel I am intrigued by Oz Perkins. I have not seen his other work, but I can already tell he’s a director looking to craft something unique rather than palpable. That said; let’s dig into this weirdly beautiful beast of a film.
I’m not going to recap the plot as I have to assume almost everyone on the planet has heard some form the of the Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. It’s been around for ages going through multiple iterations in film and television. Here Gretel (Sophia Lillis) finally gets top billing and for good reason. She has always been the more active protagonist of this story. The broad plot points are all the same, but we’re given more subtext and back story. This gives us a good idea of where our characters are coming from making them more than just tools to drive home a moral. Hey kids, don’t be a gluttonous pig and don’t talk to strangers to avoid being eaten. A moral as old as time!
“Tell me the fairy tale again.”
It’s always nice seeing a young performer with talent continue to show off her potential. Lillis was an inspired pick in the recent It films and here gets more to do than being the damsel in distress. I appreciated how her version of Gretel not only outsmarts the witch, but proves throughout the story to have wits and is a competent foil. We also get to see her grow and tackle some tough questions. Everything about this iteration was interesting and fleshed out.
On the other hand Hansel (Sam Leakey) pretty much is left with nothing more to do than whine, chop a tree, and be in a trance. Personally, with the name billing swapped I expected this and wasn’t bothered. I’ve got to give it to Alice Krige. Playing The Witch as a sinister old lady would’ve been too easy. Here you get a sense of uneasiness around the character, but she never fully telegraphs her character’s intentions. I was also surprised that Charles Babalola showed up for only a moment and was never seen in the film again.
“You’ll start seeing things that aren’t there.”
As I mentioned earlier I am intrigued by Oz Perkins. Here he shows a strong visual esthetic that is engrossing. I absolutely loved the style he brought to the film even if there were times when it overrode the narrative. I was genuinely surprised to see this film nabbed a PG-13. There are moments when I could’ve sworn the look would’ve locked it into an R rating. I was impressed that this was Galos Olivares first feature film as lead cinematographer. The look put together was top notch and helped show off a beautiful production design.
Gretel and Hansel is an exercise in style over substance at times, but thankfully Lillis’ performance, Perkins’ direction, and all the other actors doing the best in their supporting roles elevate the film above being an overly long mess with music video aesthetics.
Overall Score: 4/5
The Shameless Plugs
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