Friday, June 1, 2012

Charlize Theron: Born to B-I-T-C-H?

Ever since I returned to Bangkok yesterday, I've been noticing posters all around town for Snow White & the Huntsman, this year's second big-screen retelling of the Brother's Grimm classic Snow White (out today, June 1, in the U.S.). Although I totally and intentionally missed Mirror Mirror, the first one, starring Julia Roberts as the wicked Queen Clementianna, checking out the new film is near the top of my to-do list. I can't remember the last time I've actually wanted to see the movie version of a classic fairy tale.

Oh yeah, never.

And it's all because of the movie poster. While I like Kristen Stewart (Snow White) just fine, and I enjoy looking at Chris Hemsworth (the Huntsman) whenever I can, I couldn't care less about either of them here. Not with a certain actress lurking and towering menacingly in the background of the version of the posters on display in Bangkok: Charlize Theron as the wicked Queen Ravenna. For me, she's the only reason to see the movie.

I had nightmares for weeks as a kid after I went on the Snow White ride at Disney World for the first time (it's based on the classic 1937 animated Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), and the Queen popped up out of nowhere and shoved that poisonous apple in my face. If I were 7 years old again, I don't doubt that Theron would have a similar effect on me, and not just because the PG-13-rated film clearly wasn't made for second graders. That gorgeous pretty woman can be one scary witch.

Too bad Hollywood has never quite known what to do with her (as I've noted before). But I have, ever since I first read the Ayn Rand story The Husband I Bought some 13 years ago and immediately cast Theron in my mind as the other woman -- though I imagined her being a lot more devious and cunning in my screen version. Not since Bette Davis has a beautiful Hollywood movie star been so born to be bad, and like Davis at her bitchy best (in Jezebel, in The Letter, in All About Eve, in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), Theron has been remarkably good at it -- when given the chance.

Think about it: She won her Best Actress Oscar for playing a serial killer in 2003's Monster, and in her second-best performance (in last year's Young Adult), she perfectly embodied an aging beauty queen intent on stealing her college boyfriend, his wife and newborn daughter be damned. Her bratty antics even made the otherwise hideous Waking Up in Reno (2002) tolerable. On the flipside, whenever forced to be the heroine (in Mighty Joe Moon, in North Country, for which she was Oscar-nominated for the second time), she always seems a bit uncomfortable and out of place, like the mean girl being forced against her will to play nice.

We all know how Snow White turns out, but when Ravenna asks, "Who's the fairest of them all?" -- if she does, in this version -- I'll be thinking, "You are," and hoping for a surprise twist ending where, for once, the meanest girl wins.

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