I can remember going to the cinema as a nine year old in 2004, and seeing the trailer for Brad Silberling’s film adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was that trailer which made me turn to the books, in an effort to read at least the first three before the film came out. I ended up reading all of the released books before seeing the film, devouring them at a rapid pace. I was obsessed, and they forged my love of all things dark and mysterious. However, like many fans of the books I was left disappointed by the film when it eventually came out. I remembered it as being too comedic, too much of a Jim Carrey vehicle and not in keeping with the tone of the books.
Re-watching it on Netflix 12 years later, I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that was far funnier, darker and better than I initially gave it credit for. By the standards of children’s cinema, A Series of Unfortunate Events is deliciously dark. The film has a wickedly funny opening sequence where a seemingly harmless children’s animation about a little elf is abruptly interrupted. The film then proceeds to establish a wonderfully mysterious tone, as we see Lemony Snicket working on his type-writer, shrouded in darkness, with the perfectly cast Jude Law providing brilliant narration. Indeed, the decision to keep Lemony Snicket a hidden presence is a choice made by the film that I already prefer to the Netflix series, which has shown him in all its trailers.
First of all, and most contentiously, is Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Count Olaf. Like many readers of the book, particularly those of a younger age, I always saw Count Olaf as a principally scary character. He’s a terrifying presence who the Baudelaire’s can’t shake and has one insidious agenda, which he will pursue at all costs. He was the stuff of nightmares, and the decision to make him a more comedic character is one that upset many. However, there is considerable more menace and nastiness to Carrey’s portrayal of Olaf than I remembered.
In many ways the role of Count Olaf is a brilliant fusion of the two strands of Carrey’s career. There’s the over-the-top comedian, but also the actor who broke our hearts in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Seeing Jim Carrey play an out and out villain is actually quite interesting and when he does do comedy it’s hilarious. Whenever I recall it, I still laugh at how he says, ‘I am an Italian man’ when disguised as Stefano.
However, despite being advertised and remembered as such, this was not the Jim Carrey show. Billy Connolly and Meryl Streep are fantastic as the other two guardians, whilst Emily Browning is superb as Violet, giving the film its emotional core. As well as Carrey being both funnier and meaner than I remembered, the film has a genuine sense of tragedy underlining it. By the time it reaches its conclusion it is actually quite moving with Lubezki’s imagery, Newman’s music, and the performances all working in tandem to deliver something special.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Do you agree? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.