Sunday, April 14, 2024

“DAMSEL”

THE STORY – A young woman agrees to marry a handsome prince — only to discover it was all a trap. She is thrown into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon and must rely solely on her wits and will to survive.

THE CAST – Millie Bobby Brown, Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Bassett & Robin Wright

THE TEAM – Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Director) & Dan Mazeau (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes


We all know the saying “damsel in distress,” and the story is more or less the same. A young woman is thrust into a harmful and dangerous situation (most of the time, as a result of men’s incompetencies). Stranded and afraid, the young woman is put through intense trials and tribulations until she is eventually saved by the male hero. But “Damsel” aims to be different. Here, there is no man to save the young woman. The “damsel” is our hero.

The film takes place in a medieval land where Princess Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) is quickly coming of age. Her father, Lord Bayford’s (Ray Winstone) northern kingdom, is struggling to take care of and feed its citizens. So, in a traditional medieval manner, Lord Bayford seeks to match his eldest daughter to a wealthy house. Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright) quickly accepts and sends Elodie and her family to her wealthy kingdom to marry her son, Prince Henry (Nick Robinson). All of this is a traditional medieval fantasy romance plot…until Elodie finds out she is being used as a sacrifice to repay an ancient family debt on behalf of the royal family. Now trapped, Elodie can only save herself from a monster and seek justice.

When it comes to fantasy, it’s always entertaining to see how artists create their worlds. The Kingdom of Aurea is grand and compelling. The amount of wealth is clearly showcased within “Damsel” and the kingdoms. However, an element of gildedness signifies that something isn’t entirely right. The costumes within the first thirty minutes, which consist of Elodie’s and Prince Henry’s courting and eventual marriage, are beautiful and majestic. Elodie’s dress, in particular, is both striking and creative as it takes on several different forms throughout the film while also symbolizing Elodie’s journey. In addition, the production design of the underground chamber in which Elodie is imprisoned is visually appealing, with several different environments and characteristics that will entertain the viewer.

Millie Bobby Brown continues to establish that she is a proficient leading lady. “Damsel” leaves Brown alone for most of the runtime, acting against nothing. Throughout the film, she successfully conveys Elodie’s fear, anger, sadness, and determination. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn’t trust the actress and gives her a decent amount of expository dialogue. Maybe it’s due to Brown’s young fanbase or Netflix’s need for dialogue in their films, but Brown is more than capable of conveying emotion and thought. As a result, the dialogue falls flat and gives the impression that the creative team doesn’t trust its audience to connect the plot points, which, given Brown’s performance, the enchanting score, and several flashbacks, are incredibly hard to miss.

“Damsel” is strongest when it’s a straightforward cat-and-mouse story. The script establishes its simple rules quickly so that the stakes are instantly felt. And with Brown as the mouse and a compelling and frightening monster as the cat, the film is pretty entertaining and effective. The audience is rooting for Elodie while also hoping that she makes it out alive against a smart and menacing monster. If the film had only included Elodie hiding and eventually fighting the monster, “Damsel” would have been exceedingly entertaining, which is where director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo shines. Unfortunately, the script bites off more than it can chew and loses its steam quickly when outside forces come back into play. Additionally, the creature in “Damsel” is scary, but Fresnadillo shows it too early within the runtime, resulting in inconsistent CGI and quite noticeable visual effects throughout the film.

“Damsel” is not the typical Netflix original movie that seems like it was created in a factory with no artistic merit. It’s imperfect and works much better as a horror survival film, but despite its flaws in the third act, it’s still a fun play on the “damsel in distress” trope and coming-of-age drama. “Damsel” showcases that it’s okay to be scared, but even in distress, the damsel can still outsmart and outplay her opponent.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Millie Bobby Brown is a strong lead supported by adequate craft. The lighting design and score are entrancing, and the craft in the first half of the film is impressive.

THE BAD - Inconsistent CGI is present throughout, and the film works best when grounded in the major conflict. Therefore, it loses steam in the third act. The dialogue is forced and only consists of exposition.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Lauren LaMagna
Lauren LaMagnahttps://nextbestpicture.com
Assistant arts editor at Daily Collegian. Film & TV copy editor.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Millie Bobby Brown is a strong lead supported by adequate craft. The lighting design and score are entrancing, and the craft in the first half of the film is impressive.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Inconsistent CGI is present throughout, and the film works best when grounded in the major conflict. Therefore, it loses steam in the third act. The dialogue is forced and only consists of exposition.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"DAMSEL"