Friday, November 27, 2020

Disney+'s "Godmothered" Trailer Suggests There's More Than One Way to Live a Fairy Tale Life

The new "magical holiday comedy" movie from Disney+ seems to be trying very hard to be a modern take on the Disney idea of "a fairy tale life" or what happily ever after can be. It certainly feels like it's inspired by one of Disney's most self-aware films, Enchanted, but we're yet to be convinced that Godmothered can top it.

Here's the description:

This holiday season, be careful who you wish for. Watch the new trailer for Disney’s #Godmothered, a magical holiday comedy starring Isla Fisher and Jillian Bell, streaming on #DisneyPlus Dec. 4.

Set at Christmas time, “Godmothered” is a comedy about Eleanor, a young, inexperienced fairy godmother-in-training (Jillian Bell) who upon hearing that her chosen profession is facing extinction, decides to show the world that people still need fairy godmothers. Finding a mislaid letter from a 10-year-old girl in distress, Eleanor tracks her down and discovers that the girl, Mackenzie, is now a 40-year-old single mom (Isla Fisher) working at a news station in Boston. Having lost her husband several years earlier, Mackenzie has all but given up on the idea of “Happily Ever After,” but Eleanor is bound and determined to give Mackenzie a happiness makeover, whether she likes it or not.

And the trailer:

The premise has a lot of potential, but what the trailer suggests about the movie doesn't show it exploring that a whole lot of that. Trailers are now more difficult than ever to get a true feel for what they're advertising, especially from big companies who are very set on marketing to a demographic, That demographic here is the princess culture following. While the trailer seems to want to show itself to be subverting Disney tropes as much as Enchanted did (and still does, despite being thirteen years old) we're not seeing a whole lot of evidence of Godmothered being any more relevant or socially aware than Enchanted was. 

While Godmothered begins with a nice diversity of fairy godmothers, despite the glitter-and-fantasy-troped surroundings, as soon as the Godmother of the title, named Eleanor, leaves the fairy world (a magical world called "The Motherland"??) and enters the real one, we're smack in the middle of a very white, comfortably upper-middle-class, Hallmark-feeling set of situations and scenes, including the bumbling not-so-smart fairy godmother who needs a dose of self-awareness in order to be able to bring HAE to her charge.

We're hoping we're wrong about this. 

One little glimmer of hope is that the Director is Sharon Maguire of Bridget Jones' Diary, a film which could easily have fallen into all the typical rom-com traps and been a nice-but-very-average movie, but instead rose above that to have a lot to say at the time. Unfortunately, unless Maguire had a strong and unique vision for this movie from the outset, we don't quite see this doing the same, as it's been fast-tracked from September 2019 at first mention to being released next week on December 4th - that's incredibly fast for a feature-length project, especially one that is aiming to break the mold. Perhaps we've just gotten a substandard trailer though, and there actually is some hidden magic here. We've known talented writers to put together works of insightful and delightful genius very quickly, so perhaps one of those scripts made it through the Exec-machine intact and was supported by a visionary producer. We shall see.

Why do we care? 

The world could really use a feel-good, insightful Enchanted-like movie to add to the holiday viewing line-up and folks are clearly searching for solid doses of uplifting and hopeful viewing. To have a solid movie that also gives people cause to reflect and rethink things, in a positive way, would be the tonic so many need right now.

On a deeper level, an exploration of "fairy godmothers no longer being needed" and one in training aiming to prove the world still needs them (and magic) speaks directly to the disillusionment currently at an all-time high. We've overdosed on "real" stories in the efforts to separate fact from fiction and to consolidate fractured narratives into something that makes sense. Attraction to the bizarre has not only started to feel understandable, but we're seeing more that people giving into nonsense feels cathartic. It lets the steam out before we pop. The problem with this is that it's very temporary and is a coping strategy at best, not a way forward. When a response doesn't allow for resolution, hope, or a sense of peace, but instead reinforces chaos, chaos is king. When chaos reigns and takes over our stories it becomes harder and harder to have a strong vision for a better future and for creating a way to get there. Escapist fantasy is useful because we know - we give it permission - to remove us from reality to tell us a story to explore ideas and possibilities. Without the pressure of our upsetting reality dominating the story, we can get a clearer idea of concepts, of ideas, of ideals, and of possibilities not usually visible from our regular point of view, and it is not a threatening thing to consider. It's a fantasy and isn't asking to replace reality like alternative narratives do, only to reflect on it. Stories of wonder and fantasy free us to see possible choices - and that's empowering.

Let's all cross our fingers that the saccharine impression of the trailer (although it's clearly trying to avoid that very thing) isn't a true reflection of what the movie really is. 

Godmothered premieres on Disney+ on December 4, 2020.
For those wanting more insight into what this film will be here are some excerpts from the Disney Live-Action Production Notes Media Kit (sections in bold are our emphasis)
Fantasy faces a hard reality in Disney’s "Godmothered" – a hilarious Christmas comedy that turns the traditional fairytale completely on its head. When an offbeat fairy godmother forces herself on a reluctant human protégé, they’ll both discover life isn’t as simple as “happily ever after. “ Eleanor is an apprentice fairy godmother, highly enthusiastic and eager to learn the tricks of the trade, but not quite there yet. All her life she has lived in The Motherland, the Gothic fantasy other-world where fairy godmothers come from and where they are raised and trained and have existed for a thousand years. There, she has been taught by her imperious headmistress Moira (Emmy winner Jane Curtin), who literally wrote the book on “godmothering,” all the very traditional fairy tale notions of what girls aspire to—going to balls in beautiful gowns, marrying Prince Charming and also things like turning pumpkins into carriages and mice into footmen. Mackenzie is a world-weary widow who lives in Boston with her daughters Jane (Jillian Shea Spaeder) and Mia (Willa Skye) and is exhausted from trying to juggle all the responsibilities of motherhood with a high pressure and mostly unrewarding job on the number four local news program... Eleanor’s and Mackenzie’s worlds collide one day when, due to a lack of demand for fairy godmothers, The Motherland is in great danger of shutting down, with everyone to be retrained as tooth fairies. Desperate to find something that will validate the need for fairy godmothers to continue to exist, Eleanor finds a letter from Mackenzie asking for help, unaware that she sent it decades ago. With the help of her roommate, Agnes (Oscar® nominee June Squibb), Eleanor is transported from The Motherland to 21st century Boston, in order to find Mackenzie and use what she has learned from Moira to bring happiness to her life... (Director) Maguire explains, ”There’s this conflict between Eleanor’s expectations and what she thinks being a fairy godmother is and what she thinks magic is like. But then when she’s confronted with the real world, all her expectations come crashing down in a very funny way.” The director continues, “There are all the tropes of the Disney legacy….magic, there’s wands, fairy godmothers and woodland creatures, but we also get to subvert that legacy for comedy. Eleanor is untrained in magic, so none of her spells go according to plan and Happily Ever After is delivered in a very different way than we’ve come to expect in previous Disney movies.” From her first encounter with the much-older-than-she-expected Mackenzie, it is evident that this assignment is not going to be easy for Eleanor. 
There’s poignancy and truth when Eleanor is forced to realize that all her old-school concepts about what will make Mackenzie happy are false, and presumptuous on her part. Maguire says, “When Eleanor finds out why Mackenzie doesn’t believe in ‘happily ever afters,’ she doesn’t know what to do with that and that’s great because it sends her back to zero in what she does with her magic and she has to learn what ‘happily ever after’ really is.” This is one of the film’s key messages: That in today’s world, unlike in traditional fairy tales, ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t mean marrying a prince and living in a castle. It’s completely subjective. Says Springer, “That notion of redefining what ‘happily ever’ after might mean in a way that’s more practical and real in our regular lives. That sometimes you have to take control of your own fate and become your own fairy godmother and find that happiness.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment