Smoldering 'Phantom' makes fresh transition to silver screen

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 24, 2004 | Publication: The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) | Author: Hallie Woodward
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If you are looking for the optimum date movie, it's here.

Joel Schumacher pulls out all the stops to let Gaston Leroux's Gothic romance smolder on stage. It's opulent and passionate. With its haunting shifts of an elderly gentleman remembering his vibrant youth and fervent love, the timing of release during the holiday season is brilliant.

This timeless tale begins with a haughty, overpowering soprano diva, Carlotta, who demands the most precious luxuries from the theater's two new managers.

Because of her temperament, Carlotta walks out in the middle of a dress rehearsal. Now the theater is in desperate need of a new soprano.

Madame Giry, mistress of the theater, recommends one of her ballerinas, Christine Daae.

It is mentioned that Christine is under the influence of a great teacher, the mysterious "Angel of the Music."

Christine's opening-night performance is well received and captivates the audience and the Phantom, who devotes himself to making his protege a star. Meanwhile, Christine is being courted by the theater's wealthy patron, the Vicompte Raoul de Chagny.

The love triangle is dramatic and tragic. Yet this retelling of soaring passions, fierce jealousies and obsessive love is fresh.

What can you say? The music is passionate and thrilling. It is upbeat and throbbing. Minnie Driver is superb in her singing role and humorous.

Emmy Rossum, at 18, is a beautiful songbird. Basically going from an unknown in "Mystic River," she will surely be catapulted to stardom by this film.

Gerard Butler is outstanding. One may remember him vaguely from starring opposite Angelina Jolie in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life" or opposite Paul Walker and Frances O'Connor in "Timeline."

Patrick Wilson is the only one who is a bit of a letdown. Yet we forgive him because of his good looks. Surely he has transcended his last role in "The Alamo."

Costuming is magnificent. From Rossum's thigh-high, beribboned stockings and sheer dressing robe to Butler's open-chest ruffled shirts, the screen heats up. Other costumes are flamboyant and ornate.

The choreography is terrific. The fan dance is quick and flirtatious. The stage duet, "The Point of No Return," between Rossum and Butler with a Latin flair, is hot. At this point the film goes from smoldering to smoking.

Yet chills will run down your back when Christine walks alone in the cemetery. Yes, director Joel Schumacher is fantastic in using the extreme moods and shadows to his advantage.

This Phantom is unlike past ones. We are able to look past the Phantom's disfigurement. Yet we are aware of the malignancy that is in his soul. We realize that this isn't so much of a horror film as it is a tragedy. We see what happens when a soul is entirely consumed by its passions, which, here, are music and acceptance.

Yes, it is a bit different from the stage adaptation. However, the film is spectacular. I'm sure it will be in the running for numerous awards. All I can say is, Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Hallie Woodward is a student at Olive Branch High School. Her grading system: A=Awesome, excellent; B=Better than average; D=Desperately staring at exit; F=Flunked, hoping for fire alarm to go off.

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"The Phantom of the Opera"

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writers: Gaston Leroux (novel-"Le Fantome De L'Opera"), Andrew Lloyd Webber (musical), Joel Schumacher (screen play)

Cast: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver, Simon Callow, Victor McGuire, Jennifer Ellison and Ciaran Hinds

Genre: Musical-drama- romance

Rating: PG-13, for brief violent images

Running time: 143 minutes

Grade: A+