Friday, February 25, 2005

I watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events last night, a decision borne out of the need for a suitably entertaining diversion (I originally intended to watch "Constantine" but changed my mind at the last minute, philosophizing and religion is the last thing I needed). Indeed I did enjoy my time watching this film, as dark as it may be. The movie took on the the stories of the first three books and tells the story of three Baudelaire children: the inventor, Violet (Emily Browning); the reader, Klaus (Liam Aiken); and the biter, Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman). They were suddenly orphaned when their house was burned down quite mysteriously along with their parents and little did they realize that it was only the beginning of their troubles (hence the title). The executor of the Baudelaire Estate, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall) promptly brought them to a distant relative named Count Olaf (Jim Carrey) who would serve as their legal guardian till Violet reaches the age of 18. Count Olaf cared litte for the children, if at all, and he couldn't wait to his grubby hands on their inheritance. But before the thought entered his head he put them forth through a series of humiliating chores while he enjoyed his time rehearsing a play with his troupe.

The first attempt to murder the three by staging it to look like an accident failed by their coming together and using their noggins and with the timely arrival of Mr. Poe. With a charge that he was unfit to take care of the children, Count Olaf lost his opportunity to seize the fortune. Next in line to be granted custody over them is another unknown relative they call Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly), a reptile expert and a very emphatic character who has his wards' welfare in mind. He had already planned to take them with him to Peru to search and study snakes but before he could do so, a disguised Count Olaf arrived, duped his way into Monty's trust and killed him before anyone (but the kids) could be wise to him. And his plan would have worked too with Mr. Poe and the police handing them over to him if not for Sunny.

They were handed over to the next distant relative, Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) who lived on a house on stilts precariously standing on the edge of a cliff. A formerly adventurous woman who tamed lions and piloted airplanes, she was reduced to being extremely paranoid but grammar-conscious person that's deathly afraid of realtors. She also seems to hold a key to the secrets related to the death of the Baudelaire parents. But before they could get down to discussing these keys, a disguised Count Olaf appears again on the scene and snakes his way to Josephine's trust. Count Olaf killed her too, but what's more tragical about it all was that this time he managed to snake his way again inside Mr. Poe's and the Detective's (Cedric the Entertainer) trust. To solidify his hold on the children's inheritance he cooked up a way to get around the law by going through as many loopholes as possible. Good thing they still have each other that should one of them suffer from hopelessness the others would fight and save the day. But by the end of the movie it still wasn't the end of a series of unfortunate events for them. But before Mr. Poe brought them to their next guardian, providence delivered one last letter from their parents plus a token to assure them that they've already arrived at the solution to their predicament long before they realized it.

Production reminds me a lot of Tim Burton Movies but not as flashy. Costumes, characters, and the general ambience of the movie reminds me a lot too of another Burtonesque artist that I've come to admire, Gris Grimly. One would also notice that although hues of blue, black, and grays dominated most of the movie, occasional infusions of orange and yellow were introduced to signify sanctuary and their coming, albeit temporary, salvation. It's also worthy to point out, although it was a source of frustration to most of us, was the stupidity and apathy of the adults. Everyone who's ever read a number of children's books would notice this same pattern over and over again. Why? I don't know. It's probably the pattern in the olden times where adults never listened to children but in the end the Baudelaire parents redeemed their peers with a well written letter that seems to send an assurance from beyond the grave. The letter reads:

Dearest Children,

Since we have been abroad we have missed you all so much. Certain events have compelled us to extend our travels. One day, where you're older, you will learn all about the people we've befriended, and the dangers we have faced. At times the world can seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe us when we say there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may, in-fact be the first steps of a journey. We hope to have you back in our arms soon darlings, but in case this letter arrives before our return, know that we love you. It fills us with pride to know that no matter what happens in this life, that you three will take care of each other with kindness, and bravery, and selflessness as you always have. And remember one thing my darlings and never forget it - that no matter where we are, know that as long as you have each other, you have your family, and you are home.

Your loving parents.
In turn, Violet Baudelaire has these parting words to say as they were being driven away just before the movie ends: "At times the world can seem an unfriendly and sinister place. But believe us when we say there is much more good in it than bad. And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may in fact, be the first steps of a journey." Very well said.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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