I’m the last person you’d suspect would write about a Spielberg movie. As many of my friends can attest, my distaste for the director runs deep. I don’t even like saying or writing out his full name. I usually type it as S*******g because I have this theory that if you speak or type out his actual name three times in a row he’ll appear, Beetlejuice-style, and drone on and on about how he wants to marry Mark Rylance someday. Or bore you with stories about Mr. Tom Hanks. There are a lot of things about Spielberg that rub me the wrong way, but if I was forced to pinpoint the main cause of my aversion I’d say it started with the ending of A.I. Boy oh boy, that ending makes me so angry. That stupid, 15 minutes-long, expository, Alien Explains It All ending. Totally unnecessary. And I feel like he repeated this same watered down brand of storytelling in the last scenes of Minority Report and Bridge of Spies. And possibly some others in there that I skipped because ugh. So yes, my dislike is misguided, immature, and outdated. Because if I’m 100% honest with myself, and you, I really like Munich. And War Horse. And I’m not going to lie: I’m super excited for his adaptation of Ready Player One.
A bit of truth about his latest film, The BFG: it’s PFB, or Pretty F*****g Boring. I’m not saying you shouldn’t see The BFG, because I’m only one person and you don’t know me and what do I know anyway? But there’s more to it than that. Please to let me explain.
Here’s the rub guys: The BFG is pretty much a perfect film. It’s PFP (Pretty F*****g Perfect). This is Steven Spielberg after all, and we know Spielberg don’t play. It’s extremely hard for me to admit this to you all. Don’t think, even for one minute, that any of this is easy for me.
But one hard fact about The BFG is that it’s a Big Snoozy Giant, or The BSG. I literally slept for ten minutes during the film. Near the beginning. Despite two insanely loud, crying children sitting behind me. So not only did The BFG fail to sustain my attention, FROM THE START, but even the vocal stylings of two equally bored, equally annoyed, cranky kids couldn’t keep me awake.
The BFG solidly adapts Roald Dahl’s classic story of young orphan, Sophie, who encounters a very big, very friendly giant. The BFG has a real way with words, or non-words. He subsists on nothing but disgusting snozzcumbers and snozzcumber soup. He’s a dream catcher, bottling up night visions to secretly pass along to city children whilst they sleep. He is played with warmth and humor by Spielberg’s new bestie, Mark Rylance. BFG steals Sophie away to Giant Country, in a non-threatening way of course, and later takes her to Dream Country, where she learns all about his dream-catching shenanigans. There are even evil giants like the Fleshlumpeater (voiced by Jemaine Clement) hunting human “beans” like Sophie, to eat. Of course BFG makes it his mission to protect her. It’s all very twee and British and adorable wrapped in delightful wrapped in heartwarming wrapped in give me a break, you guys.
But! Like I said. Pretty much a perfect film. First, and most importantly, it looks gorgeous. Lensed by longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski, should we expect any less? I mean, have you seen War Horse? Schindler’s List? Munich? Saving Private Ryan? How about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? All of these films are really, really pretty to look at. The Dream Country scene is particularly marvelous, perfectly encapsulating Sophie’s wonder at encountering such a fantastical world. Melissa Mathison’s excellent script underwent a few drafts before production kicked off but that’s nothing new in Hollywoodland. And while some Dahl purists may balk at the added plot in The BFG adaptation that you won’t find in the original text, it felt necessary. Mark Rylance is well, effing great of course (but don’t get me started on his performance in Bridge of Spies. So he wore some hats and acted stoic for two hours! Who cares?). Relative newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie is just the most endearingly sweet creature – I wanted the movie to be nothing more than her running around, saying things in her British accent for two hours. Words like ‘mummy’ and ‘chocolate biscuit.’ But more to the point Barnhill plays Sophie with all the courage and moxie required – she immediately makes you fall in love with her. Secondary players Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Wilton (as the Queen – OMG!), Rafe Spall (just Spalling along as he does in EVERYTHING), and Bill Hader are all solid of course. As mentioned, there’s really not much to complain about here. Acting, story, dialogue, visuals, effects, score – it all comes together very nicely in that solid Speelblerg-ian way.
On paper, there’s nothing all that wrong with The BFG. It’s kind of like if you were at a party and you spied a really hot, attractive human bean (girl or guy – your choice) across the room who locked eyes with you and you didn’t look away because it was so on! And then somehow you found yourself near them and then they were like TALKING TO YOU and damn they fine but then the first question out of their mouth was:
“What do you do?”
And all of a sudden they were talking about their job as a research analyst or as a portfolio manager at Insert Name of Investment Bank / Hedge Fund / Private Equity firm here and while they were foaming at the mouth about financial due diligence and their sector focus (ahem, metals & mining), your mind slowly drifted…away, away, like Sophie and The BFG to Dream Country. And you realized you haven’t cleaned your shower in months, maybe not ever, and when was the last time you like, actually ate a real vegetable anyway and there’s that weird piece of lint or string, you’re not sure which, that your cat played with for weeks and got bored with and left on your rug and you really should finally, finally throw it in the trash tonight…and then as you slowly, slowly came back to your present, this beautiful, unfortunate specimen was still rambling on and on about derivatives or valuation analyses or deal pipelines or goddamn who knows what else. The BFG is kind of like that human bean. Pretty to look at, pretty to dream about from afar, but not the most fun to actually engage with. And maybe I’m not really the target audience for this – I can appreciate what Spielberg has done here because he’s one of the most beloved directors for a reason. But that doesn’t mean I have to drink the snozzcumber soup.