Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
|Featuring:||Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bowen, Jayne Wisener, Laura Michelle Kelly, Ed Sanders|
|Producer:||Patrick McCormick, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes|
“Never forget. Never forgive.”
Being someone who is unfamiliar with the story of Sweeney Todd, but a lover of musicals and Broadway shows, I found myself immediately drawn to this film. I deluded myself into thinking that I understood the plot line from the trailers I’d seen and considered myself an educated audience member… I was wrong.
I wanted to love this movie, from the beginning. With a rich cast and so much talent oozing from every creative roll, I believed I would love this movie.
Sweeney Todd (at least the film’s version of this age old tale) is the story about a man consumed by hatred and a blinding desire for revenge. If ever a story confirmed that vengeance is blind, this is that story. Fifteen years before the film’s first haunting and shadowing scenes, Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) was a happy man, in love with his wife Lucy and busy adoring his baby girl Johanna. He was a successful barber, and apparently had no reasons to be unhappy. However, because of a powerful judge’s (Alan Rickman) lustful obsession for Barker’s wife, he was falsely imprisoned and the judge moved in on Lucy. The details, from that point are a mystery to Benjamin Barker who has pronounced his former self dead and now goes by the name Sweeney Todd.
Sweeney Todd returns to his former home on Fleet street and is greeted by the bizarre and eccentric Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter). Though the film never implies that he has any recollection of who she is, she is quite vocal about knowing his wife Lucy as well as carrying romantic feelings for Barker, who is now Todd. She fills him in on the details which have occurred in his absence, as well as informs him of his wife’s suicide, and that Judge Turpin now has custody of Johanna and holds her prisoner in his home until she is of age to be his…
From a worldly standpoint, this man would have every reason imaginable to seek revenge. Not only were horrible things done to him, but what his daughter and wife had to endure at the hands of the judge would be more than most fathers or husbands could bear. It is easy to sympathize with the desolate place his soul lives…
And yet- (for those who aren’t familiar with this story, there ARE SPOILERS AHEAD)
Mrs. Lovett has a meat pie restaurant below Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. The two collaborate to help one another. Todd begins taking his hatred out on unsuspecting clients by slitting their throats, and Mrs. Lovett begins grinding the meat and baking them into her pies…
There is so much to be offended by, in this film, that listing it all would be nearly impossible. There are scenes of child abuse; a young boy (Toby) is given Gin… The murder scenes, though not done with realistic effects at all, are still quite gory and disturbing. Judge Turpin is a horrible man and his cruelty is seen at various times throughout the film. Though profanity is mild (I believe I heard three instances), much of their dialogue is not any less inappropriate.
The most touching scene is a musical interaction between Mrs. Lovett and Toby. It was heart warming and beautiful, but sadly becomes less powerful due to the immediate scenes which follow.
Tim Burton is a true artist. Though his films always carry a depth of darkness, they are made flawlessly beautiful. This is no exception. There is no way that a story of these details could not be grim and gory. It is its nature… The musical pieces, though sometimes dark in lyric, do bring about a sense of balance. The performances of the cast are beyond incredible, and, although the story itself isn’t a favorite for me, I can’t imagine that the live Broadway experience could be any better than this.
In the end we do become aware that this story does not exist to glorify revenge. No one wins here. There is no form of redemption in the lives of these characters, and perhaps therein is where the redemption truly lay. To see, grotesquely there before you, that vengeance won’t take your pain away is a pretty powerful moment in deed.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.