Matilda is a clever girl born into a family that doesn’t really appreciate it. More often than not, Matilda finds that she has to educate her parents, instead of the other way around.
Ready to learn, Matilda is very excited to go to school. However, it seems that her new headmistress is a true tyrant. To set things right, Matilda has to unearth some dark secrets as well as learn some very special skills.
I love the book, the old movie and the stage musical, and this version did not disappoint. They made a beautiful homage to both the movie from 1996 and the stage musical by Tim Minchin, yet it still felt fresh.
The casting was really good, Alishia Weir as Mathilda and all those schoolkids were a force to be reckoned with. Emma Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull had me tremble on the couch, while Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey portrayed that feeling of being ‘stuck in your story’ beautifully.
I love it when the subtle fantasy elements in a story feel like they could happen in our real world. Even though it was quite dark, I really liked this adaptation.
When I found out that the stage musical would get adapted, I got quite excited. It’s like I instinctively knew this would be the medium that would make everything click for me. Of course I had read the book and seen the 1996 film, but even though I enjoyed them, they didn’t manage to win my heart. The stage musical, with songs by Tim Minchin, was more successful in this regard. It was raw, more leaning into the dark aspects of the story. The songs managed to capture some of the more complex emotions of the narrative (’Quiet’ on repeat was a crutch to me when I was suffering from a burn-out during my master’s degree). Still, the musical wasn’t yet polished enough for me. Matilda the Musical, however, takes the best of everything and presents Matilda’s story in a balanced way, with both the childlike wonder and the darker emotions intact.
More often than we like, parents, family members and/or guardians neglect the children in their care. Sometimes intentional, sometimes despite their best efforts. No matter the circumstances, such neglect can leave you with scars that will haunt you well into your adult life. When you’re younger, you tend to believe you’ll somehow automatically be strong/wise/powerful enough to deal with the heavier aspects of life when you’re grown up. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Healthy or hurt, you’ll still carry that inner child with you. Lashana Lynch’s portrayal of Miss Honey perfectly manages to catch the ways in which you may still be haunted by your child traumas. I was very impressed with how she captured both the fragility and the silent strength of this character.
Other kudo’s go to Alisha Weir, for convincingly depicting Matilda’s childlike determination to battle both injustice and the passive fatalism many adults are prone to. And of course Emma Thomson as Miss Trunchbull, balancing the humorous grotesqueness and terrifying madness of an antagonist that represents all the worst qualities of a rational and lawful adult.
My review until now only highlights a very specific aspect of Matilda the Musical. But even if you’re not as disillusioned with adulthood as I seem to be, I think this film has enough to offer to be enjoyable. Though the story has some very dark moments, the film makers were also not afraid to play around. Some of the songs are accompanied by choreography and staging that are very flamboyant and therefore fun to watch. Supported by an army of kids that can both sing and dance fantastically, Matilda the Musical is a very spectacular musical.