Fairytales are stories of wonder and sparkles that grant the viewer a fantastical world with a heartwarming message. They touch people of all ages and unite them under themes of adventure, love, friendship, etc. This movie doesn’t do that. It doesn’t get close. Aesthetics and atmosphere are the prime directives, leaving any semblance of an interesting story, characters, or arc in the dust. Not even Willie Nelson, one of the Austinite Holy Trinity, can save this film from its flaws.
Adeline Winter (Sophie Lowe) is dealing with the death of her father when she finds a letter from him, which sends her on a quest to The Beautiful Place. The Beautiful Place is the vaudeville museum/home of Jimmy (Nelson) and Dixie Riggs (Charlotte Rampling), an aging couple waiting for a mystery person they lost long ago. As Adeline becomes close with the Riggs and comforts her mourning mother, she uncovers the truth about this mystery person and helps the Riggs through their pain. And Adeline has aspirations to be a trapeze artist? And the Beautiful Place is under threat of foreclosure. And the small town of Ransom, Texas plays a part. Those are the auxiliary parts of the story that just are kind of thrown in.
The characters and story seem fine on paper, for the most part. Just reading my description, you can start to imagine the arcs and personalities and maybe some basic scenes. And they’re in the film. The story is there, it just feels like the storytelling is neglected. There’s all of these moments that feel like they should mean something but there is no buildup or payoff so they are just kind of there. Certain scenes are even repeated, changing only the setting and props. The story doubles back, undercuts, and skirts around its themes with such confidence that it leads to a confusing experience. What’s lacking in coherent story is made up by contrived and repetitive plot points. The characters are also just as vapid. The main character has no real emotions it seems like, barely reacting to the drama around her. The best actor by far is Rampling; something about her performance made me truly feel and understand her story more than any other character.
It’s awfully purty though. The pastel storybook colors mixing with the film grain and sparkles are actually quite pleasant. But it just isn’t enough to keep your mind off of the weird pseudo story being told. I think that as a short film, this would’ve been perfect. But as a full length feature film, the pregnant and atmospheric pauses between dialogue get to be boring and lacking any sort of impact. By the end I understood the story, but just could not agree with the storytelling choices made.
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