Why is it that whenever someone that isn’t with Disney adapts a fairy tale, they copy George R.R. Martin instead?
So here’s some international fare that came Stateside not too long ago. The movie is actually three fairy tales all derived from the Pentamerone, an Italian collection of stories that influenced the Brothers Grimm years later. The three tales only intersect at the very beginning of the film and at the very end, all dealing with important lessons for kids…but told through an adult lense (read: blood and titties).
So first we got the story of the Queen, played by Salma Hayek, who’s obsessed with having a child at any cost. We also have a king who’s more obsessed with his hobbies of caring for a giant flea rather than running his kingdom or being a good father to his daughter, leading to a dark future. Finally we have a lustful king, played by Vincent Cassel (King Creep himself), who is enamored with a woman whose voice enchanted him…but is really a disfigured elderly woman. See a pattern with these stories?
The movie certainly helps you do, because the theme of obsession is all there is to the film besides the production values, which I’ll get to later. The problem is that the director filmed these stories like the fairy tales they are, offering a moral at the end and everything, but failed to give you any characters at all. Veteran thespians like Cassel and Hayek are playing tropes and nothing more. They don’t have personality, they don’t have dimension, so you treat all the trials and tribulations that these characters go through with as much empathy as you do for your friend’s goldfish.
See there’s nothing wrong with adapting a fairy tale, Disney has sucked that particular teet to the point it’s now remaking it’s original works. But what makes those adaptations work is that as much character was injected into those movies while giving strongly defined personalities that people can connect with. For a more darker approach, see also the Beauty and the Beast television miniseries partly written by George R.R. Martin. Tale of Tales, lacks any character to connect with so you don’t give a shit what happens to these characters even if they get beaten, stabbed, or raped.
Which is a shame, because the production values are really, really great. Everything from the costumes and sets clearly had a lot of work done, and the actors took the material seriously enough to commit to this world, even if the script was failing them. There’s even lots of great makeup and creature designs that should inspire and I genuinely thought looked interesting, but it was all for naught since I didn’t really give a shit about any one of the three stories.
I think the one with Salma Hayek’s queen worked the best since her child connected with a boy that looks like his twin…even though they were born of different mothers. The relationship between the two boys had some substance to it and I thought you get some mileage out of it in a more fantastical version of The Prince and the Pauper. But since we have two other stories to attend to, we only get so little that we can’t really experience the relationship between the two boys.
Another story involves some rape that you don’t see that initially gets resolved in an oddly whimsical way…then that resolution gets thrown out for a blood bath out of Game of Thrones. Still another story has nudity all around for a lesson you could be teaching kids with, but the director is using HBO-style titillation to tell his story. It’s very tonally inconsistent is my point.
After leaving the theater, I got a strong sense of deja-vu that made me think of seeing a Tarsem Singh joint. His films look fascinating but also lack any character and seems far more concerned with symbolism than actually telling a coherent story. But I do know people who love his works…even Mirror, Mirror which was an absolute crock of shit of a Snow White story (even more than Snow White and the Huntsman). So for people who like films like his, I can recommend this movie to them.
But if you’re not a fan of Tarsem Singh or production-heavy films, then skip this entirely. Overall, I’m giving this a low…