Beautiful Tragedy

MAY / JUNE 2011: BY CAROL STARKEY

lemony

The first time I saw Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, I fell in love with it. Since the movie was so good, I decided to read the books it was based on, and decided it’s one of those rare instances when a movie is better than the book. The books are witty and original and fast-paced, but I found myself left with a bad taste in my mouth after finishing the last one. Many storylines are left unfinished and mysteries unsolved. The movie, while changing certain things from the books, keeps the same flavor but the ending is far more satisfactory.

The world created in the movie is brilliant. It really comes to life, something that is at once old fashioned and modern. It’s steampunk at its finest. In fact, you find yourself noticing yet another odd or perfect detail with each subsequent viewing. From the costumes to the actors, the world Lemony Snicket wrote of is made real in a way that isn’t fully developed in the books.

The costumes alone make it worth watching. The rich fabrics, beautiful details, the flamboyance of so many of them only add to the setting. Violet Baudelaire’s dress is full of details—lace, netting, and tiny stitches—that transform what could have been a simple gray gown into a work of art. Count Olaf’s many outfits are perfect, full of whimsical details and outrageous designs. No costume is bland so watching them becomes a visual treat.

The actors are flawless. While I don’t care for Jim Carrey in general, the producers could not have picked a better actor to portray Count Olaf. He is witty and melodramatic and stingy and cruel and determined, often all in one scene. You get the sense he’s more than a little bit crazy. The Baudelaire children are played perfectly, from Emily Browning’s portrayal of Violet, a 14-year-old inventor suddenly put in charge of a younger brother and sister, to Liam Aiken as Klaus, a 12-year-old with a continual thirst for knowledge who manages to save both sisters, to little Kara and Shelby Hoffman who play Sunny, an infant with the insatiable desire to bite. Also, though the twins play a non-speaking part, their acting is amazing. I truly believed they were speaking the words printed on the screen whenever they babbled.

The settings, too, are often grand. With large rooms, sweeping staircases, and intricate windows the houses are transformed into places where anything might happen. The outdoor settings as well are well thought out. No detail is forgotten, from the fruit stands in the market to the beautiful cars. Even the dominant colors in the movie, browns and grays and dull yellows, further the mood.

What I love best about it though is the message of hope that shines through. When the Baudelaire children learn of Count Olaf’s true plan and are locked in a room by themselves they don’t lose hope. Instead, they band together to make a sanctuary for themselves. Using silhouettes of their dead parents, they manage to create a safe place, for however brief a time. They repeat this dedication to one another countless times throughout the story. They are provided with one guardian after another, and though they grow weary of trying to escape Olaf, they face each new situation with hope, knowing they have each other even when all else is gone.

In the final moments the importance of love and family is really brought home. The three children have been brought to the home they lost and as they stand among the wreckage, an envelope pops through what’s left of the mail slot. It’s the letter from their parents that was lost in the mail years ago. In it, their parents offer their love, and remind them that even if they (the parents) perish, not to despair. As long as the children have each other they are not alone.  And then their parents pass on a telescope, a link to their lives and a passing on of the torch, if you will. Though the movie ends without the Baudelaire’s fate decided, you know they will be okay. Better than okay, actually, because they have each other and the love we all need in order to live the best lives we can. ■

mayjune2011

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives in the beautiful state of Connecticut. She has a husband, three daughters and numerous pets. She works part-time while working and going to school. She loves to write, read, and take pictures of life around her. Her blog is updated infrequently, but she hopes to change that after she graduates. She’s a Christian, and hopes that ultimately her life will point to him. She also blogs.

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