Movie review – Maleficent

2014-06-08 15:00

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There was always something fishy and deeply sexist about the way Aurora was cursed in The Sleeping Beauty.

A fairy who didn’t get an invitation to the party to welcome the baby loses it and curses the princess to fall into a death-like sleep forever. You can almost hear the men who wrote it saying well, women are so irrational, it could happen. Um, not likely. No party is that good.

The live-action prequel to The SleepingBeauty with ­Angelina Jolie in the role of the magnificent Maleficentis a wonderful retelling of a deeply irritating fairy story that offers a realistic ­genesis for Maleficent’s rage, and a happy ending that has nothing to do with a sappy prince and everything to do with cooperation and mutual respect between two women.

At long last, Disney is getting it, or perhaps it is just reflecting the times. Little girls today think princesses who sit about in puffy dresses singing “one day my prince will come” are, well, a waste of oxygen.

In fact, princesses are a bit passé, which is why the remix of the princesses in Frozen (and Tangled and Brave) is such a breath of fresh air. Like Frozen, which literally punched a hole in the idea of a happily-ever-after ending because a prince turned up, Maleficenttells the story from the female perspective. Finally, the women to whom things happen in fairy tales get agency. They are telling their own stories.

Jolie is born to play this role. She is ethereal and so beautiful, it will make your eyes ache. She is regal, she is incandescent and she is, most importantly, complex.

The cause of all the trouble is a young man called Stefan, played by South Africa’s own Sharlto Copley, who after his Kafkaesque transformation in District 9 is making his Hollywood mark as versions of a villain – in Elysium, Oldboy and now Maleficent.

The makers have expertly woven elements from the original 1959 ­Disney animated film The Sleeping Beauty into the film. The prince also flags the fact that he hasn’t had permission from the princess to kiss her before doing so – which is great progress in itself in the fight against unwanted sexual attention. Even the chirpy song Once Upon A Dream has been given the 21st-century treatment with a version done by LanaDel Rey.

I loved Maleficent and I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to see this version of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, where the women who drive the narrative take back their power.

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