Maleficent (2014) – Ace Mini-Review

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning
Written by: Linda Woolverton
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
U.S.A., 2014

How good is this movie?

If you’re one of those people who grew up a fan of Sleeping Beauty (1959) and don’t want to see it messed with, you have my sympathy. But, for the rest of us, Maleficent may be just the movie we need! As a children’s film, it should appeal to both boys and girls. The flying sequences are pretty thrilling, the fights scenes are pretty fun, and the scenery is, well, pretty. Angelina Jolie is perfect as the bitter and vindictive Maleficent, and Elle Fanning as Aurora somehow manages to be utterly sweet without being the least bit cloying. The characters’ early scenes together are adorable, and their relationship forms the film’s solid backbone. Maleficent is sympathetic, yet also clearly wrong in her actions, and the foiling of her revenge plot is wonderfully ironic and utterly heartwarming. The film touches in a child-friendly way on adult issues like prejudice, assault, and vengeance. It takes the “woman scorned” trope – so often used to vilify women – and reminds us that some “scorned” women have legitimate grievances. The subversion of the “true love’s kiss” trope is familiar from Enchanted and Frozen, but neither film did such a good job of integrating it into its story. Yes, parts of the movie are silly; more could have been done with the villain; and they could have found a more inventive way to do the spindle bit. But it has a complex protagonist, a compelling story, and beautiful message about love and redemption.

How ace is this movie?

Diaval shows no signs of romantic attraction – even to other birds. And the three good fairies form a kind of queerplatonic alliance, raising Aurora together despite their lack of maternal aptitude. Both Maleficent and Aurora show romantic interest in men, but both remain single for most of the movie, including the end. Instead, the film focuses on the love between the two women, which is not sexual or romantic. Aurora has a potential suitor in Prince Phillip, but the film makes it clear that theirs is only an infant relationship, and not nearly as significant as the one with Maleficent. Maleficent’s celibacy is tinged with sorrow, insomuch as she was betrayed by the man she loved. However, romantic failure does not ultimately cut her off from happiness. In fact, the film offers the hopeful message that, even without romance, one can still find True Love.

3 Stars; 4 Aces

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