Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children/2 ½ Palm Trees
by Eduardo Victoria/[email protected]
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a return to form for director Tim Burton. It’s not anything particularly new, but it’s what he does best – gothic mystery that finds its affection and beauty amidst tragedy. Burton, above all, has always been about embracing oddities and outcasts, with characters who simply don’t belong in a world that fears what they don’t understand. Ransom Riggs’ original novel was obviously inspired by Burton’s earlier work, and now the director picks up where the book left off, translating its lyrical poetry into arresting imagery, telling a poignant story about the confusion of growing up and finding the strength to move past misfortune.
After the mysterious death of his grandfather, Abe (Terrence Stamp), Jacob (Asa Butterfield) is left with a series of cryptic clues. He thinks he might’ve seen a terrifying creature fleeing the scene of Abe’s death, and his grandfather’s final words mentioned something about finding a bird, a loop and an island. After months of failed therapy, Jacob gets a birthday present, an old book of Abe’s with a postcard from someone named Alma Peregrine (Eva Green). Dated only a few years back, and from an island close to Wales, he coerces his father to take him there under the guise of a summer vacation. What he finds on the island are more clues which lead him to Miss Peregrine, a kind, yet eccentric caretaker for a group of orphans with peculiar powers and abilities. This discovery, which defies the laws of nature and even time, shatters Jacob’s perception of reality, putting him on an irreversible path towards an extraordinary destiny.
The performances are another endearing aspect of the film. Leading the entire thing is Eva Green’s as the children’s caretaker, Alma Peregrine. Though she isn’t the story’s central character, she owns the film, with Green’s piercing stare and bird-like mannerisms (the character can also turn into a peregrine falcon) finding a rapturous eccentricity that we can’t look away from. You’ve also gotta love the statuesque silhouette that Atwood’s costume gives her as well – it’s slick, literally sharp, giving the character a mythical aura. The second best performance here is Ella Purnell’s Emma, a headstrong girl who is lighter than air, and has shared a past with Jake’s grandfather, Abe.
Though her character looks like a young girl, she’s actually really old, and Purnell has a maturity that sells the roll, as well as a charm and poignancy that really embodies the peculiars’ unique situation. She’s definitely a talent, and there’s no doubt she could carry an entire film on her own. Sadly, as Jake, Asa Butterfield has been better. He doesn’t go beyond what the role needs and feels a little wooden initially, but he grows into the character as the film progresses.
Though the other kids have smaller roles, each one is pretty distinctive aside from their powers, making the overall ensemble a really fun one to watch. Lastly, Samuel L. Jackson is relishing his role as the villainous Mr. Barron, chasing the kids through time itself – you can’t wait to see him return to the screen each time he disappears.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children isn’t perfect, but Burton’s imagination is inspiring, and the film’s message is one that’s sincere. The plot juggles a lot of story, inheriting some of the book’s faults, but Goldman and Burton have made changes for the better, punching up the emotion while making the ending feel like more of a complete story – it could continue, or serve as a fitting endcap. As a film about the pains and confusion of growing up, or a fantastic adventure that traverses time and grief, Burton’s latest is a wonderful portrait about saying goodbye to the past and embracing an uncertain future with open arms.
Rated PG-13. 127 minutes. Now Playing at Cinemark Downtown 10.