The muddled, overly complicated CGI-fest Alice Through the Looking Glass opened last weekend amid huge expectations, given the success of 2010's Alice in Wonderland and returning big-name cast members such as Johnny Depp. But Alice II bombed – big time.
Maybe it was the reviews: "gaudy, loud, complacent, and vulgar" (Boston Globe); "a dull, formulaic theme-park ride" (Philadelphia Inquirer); "you can hear the sound of Lewis Carroll in the next world, throwing up" (San Francisco Chronicle). My colleague Kate Taylor gave it 1.5 stars.
But perhaps the film's artistic failings weren't the only reasons it flopped. Perhaps people felt a bit queasy about taking their kids to see a family film whose star has been accused of beating his wife.
The day it was released, Amber Heard, who earlier that week filed for divorce from Depp, was granted a restraining order after alleging abuse that included having an iPhone flung at her face.
They're allegations at this point, but no matter how much face paint you apply to the guy, Depp is hard to watch being (or trying to be) funny in light of them. Nothing has been proven in court, but is that enough to stop people from feeling icky about him?
Allegations of abuse haven't been enough to destroy Woody Allen's career, that's for sure – and his son Ronan Farrow is steamed about it.
With Allen's latest film, Café Society, opening Cannes this spring, Farrow wrote a scathing essay slamming the industry's continued acceptance of Allen and his work despite allegations the director abused his daughter Dylan Farrow when she was young. Her brother Ronan expressed outrage at the media for not asking Allen the tough questions.
"That kind of silence isn't just wrong," he wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. "It's dangerous. It sends a message to victims that it's not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about … what we'll overlook, who we'll ignore, who matters and who doesn't."
Farrow, a former TV news host, regrets an interview he did two years ago with Bill Cosby's biographer, in which he asked only one question about sexual-abuse allegations against the star comedian. (This was before they escalated and the tide of public opinion turned against Cosby.)
Cosby's career is now over, and his work unwatchable. Can you imagine chuckling along as Dr. Huxtable presides over his family in his multicoloured eighties sweaters, dishing out folksy advice?
Any sort of backlash-to-the-backlash career rehabilitation seems out of the question. Just ask Mel Gibson.
So why do we still watch Allen's films? Because we don't believe Dylan Farrow? Or because we really, really like his movies – or used to, anyway – and keep hoping he'll deliver another Annie Hall?
Separating the problematic artist from their art is tricky. Should companies stop staging the magnificent operas of Wagner (an anti-Semite whose music was adored by Hitler)? Should radio stations stop playing Michael Jackson (who faced numerous allegations of sexually abusing children, none proven in court)?
Even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could become verboten, given outrageous views expressed by author Roald Dahl. He told The New Statesman in 1983: "There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity … there's always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on them for no reason."
Yet Dahl's anti-Semitism didn't stop Steven Spielberg, director of Schindler's List, from adapting Dahl's The BFG, which is out July 1.
Then there's Picasso. Next week, the Vancouver Art Gallery opens the exhibition Picasso: The Artist and His Muses, which explores the significance of six women in his art and life. I haven't seen the show yet, but I do know that Picasso's treatment of his many women was appalling. And yet his art remains a tremendous draw. Because, of course, it's tremendous.
I think our response to the great-art-by-a-terrible-person quandary is connected to both the nature and evidence of the allegations, but also to how much of the artist we see in the work – and to what degree the subject of the allegations creeps into the art. I used to love Manhattan, but I now find it impossible to watch Allen's 42-year-old character court a 17-year-old high-school student.
"I'm dating a girl who does homework," he says to his adult friends.
Creepy, right? Yet, I look at Picasso and I see only – or certainly mostly – the paintings.
There is a monetary issue here: Picasso is dead, but Allen profits from your movie-ticket purchase.
And this may be terrible and unfair, but the merit of the work likely plays a role in this minefield.
I'm fine with never seeing another episode of The Cosby Show or rewatching Braveheart. But I am looking forward to that Picasso exhibition, I deeply enjoyed Die Walkure at the Canadian Opera Company last year, and on the opposite end of the cultural plane, I still love the Thriller scene in 13 Going on 30. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of the first chapter books I bought for my son.
But can I stomach the film again, with Depp as Willy Wonka?
I honestly don't know. Does this all make me a hypocrite? Maybe.
As Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka says in the 1971 movie version, "You should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about."