Written by: Victoria Alexander | May 9th, 2012
Finally, Johnny Depp’s first hot sex scene. He’s got real chemistry with Eva Green. Makes you wonder what happened in The Tourist.
I keep complaining that Johnny Depp has stopped playing real people and, keeping with my declaration, he has commandeered frequent collaborator (eight times!) director Tim Burton to do a film with him as vampire Barnabas Collins. Dark Shadows originally aired weekdays on ABC from June 27, 1966 to April 2, 1971. This means no one buying a ticket in 2012 has ever seen the soap opera. Depp was an obsessed fan of the soap growing up.
Barnabas Collins (Depp) is an 18th century English aristocrat who is in love with Josette (Bella Heathcote) but the scullery maid Angelique (Eva Green) is in love with him. Angelique may be beneath him in social position but she is a witch. When Barnabas cruelly rejects her, she entrains Josette to commit suicide and condemns Barnabas to be a vampire. Then she rallies the Collinsport, Maine villagers to bury him alive.
Obviously, the villagers hated working for the Collins family and resented their dominance of the fishing industry.
Fast forward two hundred years and the town of Collinsport is undergoing a revitalization. Its fishing industry is booming under the direction of semi-immortal Angelique. Workmen uncover the casket of Barnabas and free him from his chains. In thanks, he eats all twelve rescuers.
What can he do? He’s a vampire!
Barnabas goes immediately to his ancestral home, Collinwood Manor, which resembles the Beale’s decrepit mansion Grey Gardens. The châtelaine of Collinwood is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeifer). Her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) lives there with his son David Collins (Gulliver McGrath) and Elizabeth’s cranky daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz). To assuage the psychological damage after the death of his mother, David has a live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). Helping around is Willie (Jackie Earle Haley) and the ancient maid, Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley).
Barnabas is shocked to find out that it is 1972 and while no one has a cell phone or a laptop, they do have cars and rock music. Barnabas quickly recognizes Miss Winters as the reincarnation of his beloved Josette but his vampiric looks and arcane manner puts her off. But not Dr. Hoffman, who finds having a vampire in-house fascinating.
When Angelique is told about the unearthing of a casket, she immediately knows Barnabas has come back home. And thus begins a heated anti-romance between Barnabas and the seductive Angelique. She still lusts after Barnabas.
In her office boardroom, Angelique has oil portrait paintings of herself through the last 200 years. I love that director Burton and his art department included an art deco portrait of Angelique by Tamara de Lempicka. What a clever touch!
The screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith (with a story credit by John August), nicely develops all the characters, especially pre-sex kitten Carolyn.
I am sure collaborating so many times with Burton gives Depp, who also produced, free range into his character. I cannot imagine Burton actually “directing” Depp at this point. Unlike Depp’s creepy man-child characters, Barnabas is an 18th century aristocrat, he’s not touchy-feely. And, he needs blood and that means killing humans.
And while Bella Heathcote is photographed as ethereal, Michelle Pfeifer is terrific but her clothes are horrible, and Burton finally allows Helena Bonham Carter to look lovely like a real person, Eva Green is the showstopper.
When Angelique finally seduces Barnabas, their sex scene triumphs. If only they had undressed.
Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.
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