Disney is dominating this weekend’s box office with a live action reboot of its animated classic Beauty and the Beast. But you shouldn’t overlook 20th Century Fox’s competing effort, a live action update of its most popular animated movie from the 90s: Anastasia.
With only a quarter of the budget of Beauty and the Beast (Disney is flush with Marvel and Star Wars money), Anastasia (2017) may not boast fancy special effects and period costumes. But it does have a visionary auteur in director Sofia Coppola, and an appealing star in New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel.
Coppola imagines what it would be like if the legendary Russian princess Anastasia lived in present day New York City facing challenges like not being taken seriously enough as a young white woman whose entire family was murdered in the course of communist revolution.
I especially liked the scenes where Zooey Deschanel stares thoughtfully out a window at the New York skyline for several minutes at a time. And there’s real poetry when she writes in her diary (which we hear in voiceover) about how unfair it is that no one takes her seriously just because sometimes she spontaneously starts dancing in converse tennis shoes.
Bill Murray’s lengthy cameo as a homeless man wandering through the city mumbling in a odd sing song voice about New York City being gloomy felt disconnected from the rest of the movie. But when the homeless man encounters Anastasia and whispers something in her ear that changes her life forever, I knew I was witnessing true cinematic art.
Anastasia (2017) is mostly devoid of the spectacle and plot that dazzles us in movies like Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Deadpool. Instead we must confront the loneliness that characterizes the isolated existence of a princess in New York. At her best, Zooey Deschanel is a stand-in for all humanity and we recognize in her a mirror that sheds light on the truth of beauty and emptiness.
TL;DR – Though less flashy than its rival Beauty and the Beast (2017), Anastasia (2017) contains profound insights into the nature of the human condition of a princess in New York City.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Sofia Coppola updates the classic story of Anastasia for our era in this introspective tale of a young woman who feels emotionally empty and lost in the world.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“A delicate portrait of a still-maturing young woman trying to find her identity and be restored to her proper social station.” – Scott Tobias, NPR
“Though Anastasia is heir to a fabulous fortune, is having your whole family murdered too high a price to pay?”” – Antonio Gramsci, The New Republic
“Can you say Zooey Deschanel, Best Actress? I can. I am very smart. I write about movies for a magazine.” – Trim Richulds, Entertainment Weekly
“Exquisite, melancholy and formally audacious, Sofia Coppola’s Anastasia blows the animated original out of the water.” – Dominique Vivant, Vulture
“Zooey Deschanel ice skating in a tiara is pure movie magic.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
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