Free Press Journal

Maleficent: Feel good retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’


Film: Maleficent

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Michael Higgins

Director: Robert Stromberg

Inspired by Charles Perrault’s harrowing story “La Belle au bois dormant” and the sanitized fairytale written by the Brothers Grimm, Maleficent is a feel good retelling of Disney’s 1959 classic film Sleeping Beauty about the wicked witch who places a curse on a hapless infant. After playing a tortured single mom in the 2008 film Changeling, Jolie plays a fairy godmother in this live-action Gothic fantasy (Interestingly, Jolie’s real life daughter Vivienne plays the young Princess Aurora).

Disney’s revisionist version written by Linda Woolverton among others has the eponymous villainess starting life as a  sweet and kind orphan protector of a fantastical fairy kingdom populated by sprites, tree-people and trolls. Her peaceful fairy existence is disturbed when she meets a young boy called Stefan. Like Maleficent, Stefan is an orphan but he is a thief and far from good. Indeed, as the narrative progresses, we find he is far worse. In the beginning though, he seems to genuinely care for her and demonstrates that he doesn’t want to hurt her unlike the rest of the human world which covets the fairy moors and invade them.

Despite the bad blood between humankind and the fairy world, they become the best of friends. But as they grow up, Stefan (Copley) gets ambitious and succumbs to the aged king Henry’s (Kenneth Cranham) offer of the throne and marriage to his daughter to the person who kills Maleficent. Stefan’s betrayal changes Maleficent’s soft heart to a stony one. Bent on revenge, she enlists Diaval (Sam Riley) to help her in her quest for vengeance.

King Stefan has a baby daughter by now and Maleficent doesn’t get invited to the baby’s christening although other fairies are. Just as in the original fairytale, she casts a curse upon the adorable infant (to ‘prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die’ before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday).

Stefan and his queen entrust three fairies Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple) to raise Aurora in a  hideaway far from the castle.No prizes for guessing, Maleficent finds out where Aurora is, and in a departure from the original story, assumes the role of a surrogate mom. Unlike the self-serving Stefan, she is motivated by peace. By the time she’s 16 (well, almost) Aurora ( Elle Fanning, lovely) forges a deep bond with Maleficent who tries to revoke the curse and goes to extraordinary lengths to find a prince. (Brenton Thwaites) Does his kiss do the needful, as we say in India? This movie teaches young people to discern Friendship (true and false) and Love (true and superficial) and the value of peace over war in a timeless tale about good and evil.