FairyTale — A True Story
Think Merchant Ivory meets Touched by an Angel, and you’re close to the resonant mishmash that is FairyTale — A True Story (Paramount). In 1917, two Yorkshire girls, Elsie Wright (Florence Hoath) and Frances Griffiths (Elizabeth Earl), produced photographs of themselves sitting with fairies that they claimed lived in their garden. Championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O’Toole) and Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel), the girls became the center of an early media circus, not least because they seemed to offer proof of the spirit world during the Armageddon of WWI.
A neat idea for a movie — too bad director Charles Sturridge can’t decide which movie to make. FairyTale gives us real fairies, all right, iridescent wings and all. At the same time, the movie gently chides a society so convinced of the innocence of children that it gladly yanks the wool over its eyes (the girls fessed up to the fakery in the 1980s). Too heady for small fry and too sticky for grown-ups, this oddly conflicted film is summed up by its final scene, in which the shivery spell cast by a fairy convention in the rafters collapses in the face of a cameo by a Major Hollywood Star. C+