I decided I would offer up a companion piece to my write-up on Tammy Blanchard. She is playing a supporting woman on the sideline and now on to a supporting player with no interest in being supportive. (This too is in lieu of StinkyLulu and his Supporting Actress Blog-a-Thon which goes on all day, so time is still available to write an entry.)
Tim Burton’s disgustingly successful Alice in Wonderland is not without its issues. Although I’m generally fond of it Wolverton’s poor script is a problem that looms over the entire narrative – and my biggest qualm with the blockbuster. Amidst her inability to satisfactorily create resolutions for her characters is the tyrannical Red Queen who – whatever the incarnation – seems to emerge as one of the most interesting creatures of
Wonderland Underland. Tim Burton often gets flack for his predilection to use a set of familiar faces continually in his films, and as far as Depp goes it’s an argument I can understand. When it comes to Helena Bonham Carter, though, I’m nonplussed about the argument. Like with Sweeney Todd and Corpse Bride before Bonham Carter’s ability to command the screen is responsible for a great deal of the success in Burton’s piece. Unlike the other two, Alice in Wonderland is not a very strong feature which makes her contributions all the more laudable.
This sort of emotionally stunted diabolical thing is vaguely evocative of her work in Merlin as the similarly perverse Morgan Le Fey – but
It probably sounds like I’m out to pan her script, but I’ll give Woolverton props for the rare moment of something close to emotional poignancy – although it’s not where you’d expect it. Perhaps it’s Wasikowska’s generally dreariness here, or maybe it’s just another screenplay shortcoming, but Alice’s journey never attains any emotional resonance. The single moment where I’m moved to consider the realness of the characters (aside from Hathaway’s delightfully diabolical good witch) is a conversation between the Red Queen and the Knave (played to perfection by Crispin Glover) and though there is something altogether too pat about the line “It is better to be feared than loved” Helena does the weirdest thing in manging to evoke the biggest laughs and the most striking poignancy in the same film and all this with that abrasive shrieking tone she uses to characterise the Queen. It would be simple to accuse Bonham Carter of being like the Queen and hogging the spotlight here, but she - like everyone in the cast - is given a script to work with that has palpable issues, she cannot be blamed for doing excellent things with it.