Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

At Last -- a Feminist Fairy Godmother; Film of the Week; the Untold Story of the Villain from Sleeping Beauty Has Disney Rewriting the Rulebook and Angelina Jolie Being Truly Magnificent

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

At Last -- a Feminist Fairy Godmother; Film of the Week; the Untold Story of the Villain from Sleeping Beauty Has Disney Rewriting the Rulebook and Angelina Jolie Being Truly Magnificent

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlotte O' Sullivan

MALEFICENT Cert PG, 97 mins ONCE upon a time there was a Hollywood princess who wanted to be more than a pretty angel. She did indeed change the world but, as the years passed, her filmography suffered (to be honest, she starred in more than her fair share of stinkers, then lost interest altogether). Even her greatest fans began to doubt that her career, in front of the camera, could be revived.

The fools! Here, in this Disney epic -- a live-action reworking of the Mouse House cartoon classic, Sleeping Beauty -- actress and global pioneer come entwined and the result is magnificent. In fact, Angelina Jolie is such a natural fit as the titular bad fairy that it's hard to believe she's not ad-libbing the lines. The black clothes; the supernatural cheekbones; the wicked smile. It's a role this gorgeous Goth (who first flashed that grin in 1999's Girl, Interrupted) was born to play.

We learn that Maleficent and King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) were once lovers, but that in order to secure the throne he did her wrong. The howl she lets out when she discovers the betrayal seems to explode from her soul.

Admittedly, recasting a villainess as a victim isn't especially original. Jean Rhys got the ball rolling with her brilliant 1966 novella Wide Sargasso Sea (a mischievous prequel to Jane Eyre, that made us look at the first Mrs Rochester in a whole new way). The stage show Wicked and more recently Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful ran with the same idea.

What makes Linda Woolverton's female-friendly script special is the relationship that develops in the second half. I don't want to give too much away. But, basically, a powerful and perverse female, who goes by the name of Aurora (and is played, as a toddler, by Jolie's real-life daughter Vivienne) gets under the fairy's skin. The feeling is mutual and, with time, grows more intense.

After watching Frozen, which has just become the top-grossing animated film in box-office history, a Christian pastor in the US labelled Disney "evil" and "prohomosexual". …

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