Sean K. Cureton

Archive for July, 2016|Monthly archive page

The BFG Offers Innocence Neverending

In Movie Reviews: 2016 on July 16, 2016 at 10:55 am
The BFG Poster

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Steven Spielberg
3 out of 4 stars

Serving as the first live-action theatrical adaptation of celebrated children’s writer Roald Dahl’s classic book of 1982, director Steven Spielberg has delivered something quiet special with his new motion picture The BFG. Mixing equal parts fantasy and socio-political realism, Spielberg’s latest is immediately reminiscent of some of the American filmmaker’s greatest genre works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The BFG is a wondrous storybook that begs to opened and pored over with abandon, as the Giant Country outside of London proper teems with life and wonder. When a small orphan girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) accidentally spies the towering BFG (an acronym that eponymously stands for Big Friendly Giant) out her window one sleepless night, she is quickly whisked away into a world of pure imagination reminiscent of previous Dahl filmed universes. Spielberg hasn’t been quiet this effervescently alive in quiet some time, and The BFG is his most effortlessly optimistic and hopeful feature in a long, long time.

Filling out the film’s central pair of immediately likable and charming protagonists, Barnhill and Oscar winning, Shakespearean thespian Mark Rylance play the parts of the orphan girl and the titular friendly giant with flawless candor, intimacy, and tenderness. After being kidnapped by the BFG in a fit of superstitious paranoia, Sophie learns far more about basic human decency than most people are capable of instilling in one another. Tasked with bringing good dreams to the sleeping children of England, the BFG is an incongruously spritely figure of good will and merriment, a walking contradiction whose comparatively short stature among his fellow giants makes him into the proverbial underdog. Abandoning his baser nature that has led giants in the past to feast on the flesh of young children, the BFG elects to eat a diet consisting entirely of vegetables, no matter how foul they may be. This inherent decision to choose magnanimity over covetousness makes The BFG a ringing beacon of hope in a world overcome by duplicitous nihilism and cruelty.

Rylance is a true godsend in the role of the BFG, and the motion capture technology used to bring his giant-sized avatar to life is both mawkishly cartoonish and magnificently realized. Instead of playing the character off like some ridiculous caricature of virtue, Rylance is able to imbue each and every turn of phrase from Dahl’s original novel with all of the conviction and integrity beholden to his esteemed talent. The BFG is filled to the brim with wonderfully circuitous turns of phrase that often resemble something close to an actual term in the popular English lexicon, while simultaneously leaning towards ludicrous invention just as often to even greater results. It would be easy to denigrate the character to a bumbling idiot who performs great deeds by seeming accident, but in Spielberg’s hands Rylance is allowed the space to become a full-fledged demigod. The fantasy genre is not an easy playground to find ones place within comfortably, which is why the ease of watching Rylance frolic throughout The BFG is such an unexpected marvel to behold.

At the film’s climax, there is a final movement wherein the BFG is brought to Her Majesty the Queen’s stately manor and is made an impromptu guest of honor. What follows is a fairly convoluted military sub-plot that threatens to override the preceding production. The strange machinations that begin to force their way over the film’s fabric feel oddly invasive and too bureaucratic in nature to fit entirely with the rest of movie’s anarchic bliss, making the film’s climax into a bitter sweet victory. The again, perhaps Sophie’s final destination at film’s end is in keeping with the BFG’s penultimate coupe, as the two child-like characters begin to face the dawn of a rising social maturity. One can’t live in a land of fantasy forever as the dreams one concocts must end at some point, even though The BFG offers viewers the hope, however briefly, that innocence need not ever end.