SXSW Film: The Warm-Up Round


What up, ninjas?

No? Nothing? Okay. Well, HEAVEmedia is proud to bring you coverage of this year’s South By Southwest festival. Amy Dittmeier will be posting coverage of the SXMusic festival starting on the 15th, but for now, associate music editor Dominick Mayer (that would be me) and staff writer Chris Osterndorf will be bringing you daily coverage and reviews from the SXFilm festival. We’ll have reviews up every morning, so keep checking back with us!

Last night there was one bonus screening before the official beginning of the festival, that being the premiere of Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s new film Red Riding Hood, a reimagining of the classic fairy tale. Our thoughts:

DM: There is a moment of deeply disturbing political imagery in Red Riding Hood that hints at the more interesting film this could have been if Catherine Hardwicke wasn’t seemingly hell-bent on capturing her Twilight magic (that term used very, very loosely) in a bottle twice. The village in which Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives becomes gripped by absolute terror of the big, bad wolf, to such a point that Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) decides to offer her as bait. Thus, she is marched through town in an iron mask and shackles eerily reminiscent of the Guantanamo Bay images, left to be claimed while the townspeople come through to shame her.

The film is less interested in layered political commentary, though, as it is in cheesecake shots of not one but two Robert Pattinson dopplegangers breathing heavily and fighting over Seyfried, who’s too talented to still be appearing in films like this. There’s a little sex (tasteful and PG-13 of course), a handful of jump scares and mostly a lot of clunky exposition, phoned-in turns from talented actors (Oldman and Julie Christie should both know better) and some convoluted stretching of plot in order to force the film to resemble something, anything of its source material.

CO: First of all, let me just say that after only a day in Austin, I’m already somewhat in love with this town. The whole place is like a little movie Mecca, and seeing Red Riding Hood at one of the Alamo Drafthouses last night made me sort of never want to see a movie anywhere else again.

But on to the film. Red Riding Hood is just terrible. Terrible directing, terrible writing, terrible acting. The set design and art direction are quite good, and the film has a pretty cool look, with a distinct, eye-pleasing mise-en-scène. But everything else is about it is really, really bad.

As far as the cast goes, while there are some lesser-known actors in supporting roles (none of whom really stand out), many of the big players are actors who are usually quite talented. But Red Riding Hood isn’t just a case of “When bad movies happen to good actors,” because even the good actors aren’t good in this film. Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, and in a surprising “Did she just need the money?” turn, Julie Christie all go back and forth between hamming it up and phoning it in.

The film is a lot like Twilight in its PG-13 manner of titillating without actually showing anything. In Twilight, this is kind of justified, because the whole story is one of sexual tension without any sex. However, Red Riding Hood should have either committed to being over the top and overtly sexual all the way, or just left out the sex entirely. There are some distinct sexual undertones in the original story, so in a sense, a revisionist Red Riding Hood with sexuality at the center could’ve worked. But instead of that, we got a lame mystery with sexual undertones that are hinted at but never really go anywhere. It’s a shame too, because if Red Riding Hood had embraced the idea that there is something decidedly animalistic in lust the way, say, True Blood has done, and handled the idea of “the wolf” that way, it could’ve actually been quite good, campy fun.