sat 31/10/2020

Red Riding Hood | reviews, news & interviews

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

Who's afraid of the big bad turkey?

Red alert: Amanda Seyfried keeps her eyes peeled in 'Red Riding Hood'

Once upon a time, Gary Oldman acted in the plays or films of Caryl Churchill, Mike Leigh and Alan Bennett, bringing a deliberately disorienting intensity to whatever the role. But here he is in Red Riding Hood snarling commands like “You will die now, beast!” in a film in which considerable members of the cast – spoiler ahead! – go down for the count.

Once upon a time, Gary Oldman acted in the plays or films of Caryl Churchill, Mike Leigh and Alan Bennett, bringing a deliberately disorienting intensity to whatever the role. But here he is in Red Riding Hood snarling commands like “You will die now, beast!” in a film in which considerable members of the cast – spoiler ahead! – go down for the count. That said, at least Oldman gets to appear in focus, which is more than can be said of the gauzy haze with which the director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) smothers most of Oldman’s co-stars. This film – let’s be beast-like about it, shall we? – has gauze for brains.

Once upon a time, Gary Oldman acted in the plays or films of Caryl Churchill, Mike Leigh and Alan Bennett, bringing a deliberately disorienting intensity to whatever the role. But here he is in Red Riding Hood snarling commands like “You will die now, beast!” in a film in which considerable members of the cast – spoiler ahead! – go down for the count. That said, at least Oldman gets to appear in focus, which is more than can be said of the gauzy haze with which the director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) smothers most of Oldman’s co-stars. This film – let’s be beast-like about it, shall we? – has gauze for brains.

Not that the tween audience for whom the experience is intended are likely to care, enraptured as they will surely be by the brigade of young performers on view, all of whom are both pretty and unthreatening, in the time-honoured mode of Madame Tussauds. But, c’mon: was it asking too much to wish for rather better writing than, “Oh my God, you can speak!” That’s about as sophisticated as it gets between Amanda Seyfried’s bug-eyed, red-cloaked Valerie and the wolf that is savagely laying waste to those around her, though you do wonder after a while why no one points out that our lupine savage sounds a lot like Mickey Rourke. (In fact, the creature was actually voiced by someone called Archie Rice – no relation, presumably, to John Osborne’s hapless entertainer.)

One of those films in which the subtext is considerably more interesting than the text, Red Riding Hood leaves ample opportunity across 100 interminable minutes to ponder the messages the film gives out, the dynamic between Valerie and the wolf a sort of barely pubescent equivalent to that of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. Steeped though it is in notions of tapping into and/or taming the beast within, the film is also decidedly sexless – unless you’re the sort who gets turned on by shampoo commercials.

RRH-29252Poor old Valerie, bless her, has to decide between not one mannequin but two: childhood friend Peter - Gossip Girl’s Shiloh Fernandez (pictured right with Seyfried), an impecunious woodcutter with whom she once stalked rabbits in the woods, and the wealthy Henry (the UK’s own Max Irons, son of Jeremy, and not long out of drama school). The choice amounts to a face-off between the glower (Fernandez) and the pout (Irons). I’d ditch both and take up with the wolf.

Julie Christie is on hand as a dreadlock-wearing grandmother who gives Valerie, aka Little Red, nightmares about gobbling our heroine up, while the wonderful Virginia Madsen (Sideways), as the mum, stirs vats of gruel destined to put more squeamish filmgoers off their popcorn. Through it all, the ever-plucky Seyfried aims those extraordinary orbs that are her eyes and proffers such observations as “everything I knew was ripped apart” – including, you’ll be pleased to hear, her bodice.

I have fond memories of Hardwicke’s blistering 2003 directing debut, Thirteen, which paired off Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood in a mother/daughter movie that was both entertaining and edgy and had something to say about the terrors within that we find ourselves suppressing at any age. But there’s more resonance to a single lyric of Stephen Sondheim’s thematically comparable Into the Woods than to this entire film, the occasional Germanic slant to Oldman’s on-screen bark a red herring within a colourless flick that should find everyone involved turning crimson with embarrassment.

Watch the trailer to Red Riding Hood

The film is decidedly sexless – unless you’re the sort who gets turned on by shampoo commercials

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Comments

And what about In The Company of Wolves, the thinking girl's Red Riding Hood (sounds like, at any rate)?

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