Is Daniel Radcliffe more than just a one-trick wizard? That's the question critics are asking as The Woman in Black — the actor's first major film after 10 years of playing Harry Potter — opens this weekend. In Black, the 22-year-old plays Arthur Kipps, a circa 1900 London lawyer whose wife recently died in childbirth, leaving him to raise their four-year-old son. The grief-deranged Kipps is about to be sacked when he's given one last shot to save his job: Settle the affairs of a widow who recently died at her old country estate. And, yes, the estate is thoroughly haunted. (Watch the spooky trailer below.) Given that Radcliffe is untested as a star outside the Potter franchise, critics are scrutinizing his believability in this role. Can The Woman in Black prove that, for Radcliffe, there's "life after Harry Potter?"
Yes. He's brilliant: The role of the Black's grieving widower is complicated, but Radcliffe knocks it out of the park, says Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. The Harry Potter star turns out to be a "deeply sympathetic actor," roaming through the movie "as if he were floating on a cloud composed of equal parts grief and curiosity." In this nuanced and subdued performance, he "holds his emotions close, like a pocketwatch, and yet they still register." If this is what Radcliffe has to offer, he's poised to develop into a "fine young actor."
"Review: The Woman in Black is a bleak Victorian ghost story, offered with a wink"
Which should help this terrific film hit big: The casting of "Harry Potter" already ensured this film a large audience, says Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter. But it deserves attention: The Woman in Black is "a hoot of an old-fashioned British horror film," mining screams out of shadows, creaky noises, blink-and-you-miss-it ghosts, and "shrieking music cues pegged to startling cuts." And Radcliffe is "perfectly good" and "credible" (apart from his anachronistic facial stubble), "capable of holding the screen by himself for a long period, as required by his character's isolation."
"The Woman in Black: Film review"
C'mon. He's not that good: Radcliffe wisely chose a film that signals he's "outgrown his boy-wizard role," yet won't terrorize his tween fans with its "PG-13-level frights," says Rafer Guzman at Newsday. Too bad this rather monotonous movie squanders Radcliffe terribly, burdening him with a "stiff, morose," and emotionally "straitjacketed" character. When any of the few good scares arrive, Radcliffe lowers the voltage by reacting with "vague concern mixed with slight dismay." This should have launched a new chapter in Radcliffe's career, "but Voldemort himself couldn't have done a better job of squashing his magic."
"Radcliffe not magical in Woman in Black"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 10 things you need to know today: November 26, 2014
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- Hey, scolds: Stop telling us to enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving
Subscribe to the Week