Fairy tale archetypes are front and center in the surprisingly bland French film White as Snow, even with the presence of first lady of French film Isabelle Huppert and Lou de Laâge. Huppert plays the wicked queen to de Laâge’s fresh faced ingenue in a story meant to update and sex up the famed tale, presumably in the name of female empowerment. If only director and co-screenwriter Anne Fontaine didn’t vilify age and send the message that youth equals beauty and power in every scene of the film, the sexually adventurous choices her Snow White makes wouldn’t feel so shallow.
Claire (de Laâge) is a lovely young woman toiling away at her late father’s hotel under the watchful eye of manager and evil stepmother Maud. Things are just fine until Maud’s age appropriate beau falls under the mesmerizing spell of the pert Claire, causing Maud to lose her cool and follow the advice of her psychic advisor who tells her killing Claire is the only way to solve her problems. A paid attempt to murder goes awry and leads to Claire’s escape into the forest and a chance meeting with one of seven men who find her sweetness and guile irresistible. It’s time for Claire to awaken herself to her own sexuality via these princes, who trip all over themselves and each other to gain her favor. Yay for feminist sexual freedom, right? Pool old Maud can only look from afar like a voyeuristic hag and wish she could get this kind of attention. Power to the peephole… Is that what we’re meant to think of as sex positive cinema? If so, maybe lose the heaping helping of ageism we’re treated to at the same time.
Isabel Huppert is vastly underutilized, looking hotter than hell and 4x more seductive than Laâge’s Claire. As Maud, with her power red pantsuit and matching lipstick, she campily chews up the scenery around her like the thespian champ she is. Lou de Laâge is actually quite fetching as Claire. Much like the character, de Laâge can neither be blamed for how others perceive her, nor how others are portrayed. She can’t be held responsible for the tenuousness of the threads connecting this film to the original, still-vital cautionary tale. A red apple does not a fairy tale make. The greatest shame of White as Snow is that it could have explored the archetypes of virgin and crone through these talented female actors through a feminist lens. That would have been a film that would resonate in a post #MeToo, sex positive world. This? Not so much.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars.