Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quelle suprise

Tim Burton has cast Helena Bonham Carter as one of the leads in his upcoming movie adaptation of Sweeny Todd. Everyone act shocked now.

And I sigh.

I count myself as an admirer of Helena, ever since her Lady Jane debut and that issue of Seventeen where she wore stripey purple and black stockings and complained about having to comb her hair in the mornings. (When Helena and Tim got together as a couple, I knew that I had that article to thank for some of the feeling of "Oh, that makes sense," that I had about them.) Other reasons to love her? Her Merchant-Ivory phase. Room with a View AND Howard's End? I mean, really, top that.

You would imagine that I would have hit a rough patch in my pro-Helena position right about the time she was the other woman in the Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson breakup. But thanks to some Internet scuttlebutt and having met someone who'd met someone who'd worked with Ken (apparently, two words: ass hole), I was able to get past blaming the woman for the adultery and assign responsibility firmly to Mr. Branagh. (Which is why I know that he's made films since Frankenstein, but I haven't gone out of my way to see them. It's hard for me to get past the spitting scorn I feel for the man who mistreated Emma Thompson. Wasn't there a musical somehwere in there?)

So, you would think that, given my ability to forgive Helena for her involvement in that particular moral debacle, I would be able to get beyond her proceeding to break up Tim Burton and Lisa Marie. Who you ask is Lisa Marie, other than Tim's ex? I only know because I think it was some issue of Premiere that convinced me I should know her, by featuring her in a suitably gothic layout with her now-ex-enamorata. Did Lisa Marie make Henry V at age 25? She did not. So far as I can remember, Lisa Marie's primary claim to fame is that she either luckily looks like she was drawn by Mr. Burton or transformed herself accordingly upon beginning to date him.

The point is -- Ken had Shakespeare and his ego to keep him warm at night, and Emma had Austen and Greg Wise and her lovely child and the good opinion of millions to cuddle up to. Lisa Marie? I vaguely have some memory that, post-Burton, she dated a Quaid. (Am I just making stuff up now? Probably.) The point is -- this particular break-up struck me as unfair. Not to mention that it smacked of a repeat offender: like seriously, H., couldn't you for once take up with the grip on set? The cinematographer seems to be turning out beautifully for Julia.

Worse than any of these off-screen shenanigans, however, is the fact that -- I propose this almost blasphemously -- Helena doesn't really seem to shine in Tim's movies. I know the equation should be Crazy Animator Goth + Quirky British Goth = Awesome, but for me, it just doesn't. During pretty much every Burton-Bonham Carter collaboration, I find myself imagining other actresses in the roles -- the mistress in Big Fish (though, way to put that out there, kids), the mother in Willy Wonka, one of the apes in the Planet of the Apes remake. Other actresses who would, for example, base their performances on more than their obvious joy that they are beautiful women wearing funny teeth.

I love her. I do. I just can't think of a Helena Bonham Carter performance in her Burton phase that I don't describe with qualifiers and excuses.

So, you can imagine that I find myself sighing now. Sigh.

Edited to add: I was promptly reminded by concerned parties (Pari) that I had perhaps overlooked the brilliance of Helena in The Corpse Bride, which I concede. I do ask, however, will Sweeney Todd be stop-action and co-directed by someone other than Burton, as Bride was? Because then I might be appeased.


Blogger LLA said...

Very Well Said!

I've got the same "I'm not sure I want to like her, but oh! I do like her quite a great deal" thing going on with her...

Wed Oct 18, 05:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TadMack said...


She's always the same, is my problem with her. Though I like her enormously, the sort of nervous giggle, strangely repellent sexuality and bird's nest hairdo is a bit old. With all of the money and opportunity, you'd think she'd, I don't know, redo herself...

I share your sighs, even though she WAS amusing in the very strange Corpse Bride.

Thu Oct 19, 11:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger a. fortis said...

She was certainly interesting in Novocaine, which I saw recently. Another role in which she made me shudder yet I sort of liked her despite it all.

I did love Room with a View, though. Sadly, it hasn't yet resulted in me reading the book (the things you miss as an art major...).

Wed Oct 25, 01:52:00 AM EDT  

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