Sweeney Todd Movie Poster

Demons and Hair Cuts: A Movie Review of “Sweeney Todd”

(Trigger warnings: violence, harsh language, mentions of suicide and implied sexual assault)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A classic story of how revenge can make the best of people lose sight of their humanity, with the gruesome twist of questionable cuisine.

I am a HUGE fan of musicals. In 1999, when CATS passed through Alberta, I found myself personally captivated by the stage and would then go on to lead a career in the arts. Obviously, Sweeney Todd has a distinct lack of actors prancing around in furry spandex, but it is certainly charming in its own dark way.

Anyone who is a fan of Sondheim’s music will likely appreciate the big-screen production. The star-studded cast ensures that the humorous elements shine through while staying true to the script and its characters. Tim Burton’s style complements the script with his colour pallet and set decoration choices. In fact, though he was not the original director that was signed on to the project, it seems like a natural decision. Plus, he and Helena Bonham Carter often come as a pair, so you really can’t go wrong.

Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and Mrs Lovett (Helena Carter)
Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter)

Though I was entertained, I found that this movie had many of the same weaknesses as the film adaptation of Les Miserables. First, the casting is based on star power, and not vocal strength. It is clear that many of the actors that were not trained as singers worked very hard on this in pre-production, and all-in-all the performances shone through, just don’t expect Broadway quality.

Given that this film is set in 19th century London, which historically leaves a bit to be desired in terms of gender equality on camera, however, immigration to England was not unheard of. There was certainly an opportunity here to expand on that, even with the one-liners or background actors, and it still would have been historically accurate.

Concerning behind-the-scenes, this was a very unbalanced production team in terms of gender. Unfortunately, this is commonplace, though things have been slowly getting more progressive since this was shot in 2007. For example, in 2019 the percentage of female to male directors in the US shot up to 15.1% from 7.1% the previous year (Statista.com, Amy Watson, Feb 2020).

At the end of the day, the story was preserved, however, there was an opportunity to fill certain roles with those who were better suited. As a filmmaker and actress, I like to think we are more than the sum of our bank accounts or our Instagram followers. As a musical fan, I enjoyed the film and encourage anyone who likes dark humour and a bit of blood to give it a watch.

Incluvie and Movie review score

Movie review originally published by Jessica Moutray on December 17, 2020. 


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