I’ll be honest; Cinderella has never been a favorite fairy tale of mine. I certainly have respect for the story as it has spawned many variations and adaptations, but within my eyes, it doesn’t do anything for me. It’s probably the inner boy talking, but I simply find the material a little too girly. There’s only so much pretty dress and magical prince dreams I can take. Some could say the same thing about The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Beauty and the Beast. While they all have similar notions of women wanting something more out of their ordinary lives and want a man, those stories had something for the guys to get attached to.
The most well known adaptation of Cinderella is the Disney animated movie from the fifties. I’ll admit that I had a videotape of it when I was little and probably watched it a couple of times. Who can blame parents for letting their kids watch it as the movie is cute. The little mice, the songs and the animation are fantastic, as expected from the Disney Company. I expected much of the same in Disney’s new live action Cinderella.
If you’ve heard the Cinderella story as a child, it’s pretty much the same here. A young girl Ella lives with her loving family, who is always told by her mother that she has more kindness in her fingers then anyone has in their whole body. She passes away, but manages to grow into a beautiful young lady (played by Lilly James) and have fine times with her father, a wealthy merchant. Felling an emptiness in the home, he marries a fellow widow, Lady Tremaine (played by Cate Blanchett) and she and her two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, move in immediately. He makes a trip to another kingdom, but dies from some illness, where Tremaine reveals her darker colors, leaving Ella to do the chores and be their personal slave.
Like the animated movie, Ella makes friends with the mice that live in the walls (they don’t talk in this version). She first encounters the Prince “Kit” Charming (played by Richard Madden) in the forest, without her knowing of his royalty. He’s under pressure to marry a princess to expand the kingdom, though he convincing the dying king to hold a ball so that everyone may have a chance. The Ball is set and Cinderella receives a fairy godmother (played by Helena Bonham Carter), get’s a magical makeover, goes to the ball, and you already know the rest.
Now that Disney has made Tangled and Frozen, something like Cinderella might seem passé and old fashioned, considering that more recent fairy tales have been more progressive and feminist-like. Director Kenneth Branagh had an interesting challenge to rewrite the story for a more modern audience. The first advantage of this director is that Cinderella just looks great. I love the art direction, costumes, make up, and general look of the film. It all has the grand design the matches the classic animated movie. I’ll be surprised if an Oscar nomination is not given to this team.
Cinderella also has the advantage of being well casted. Lilly James is sweet and good looking (but not too pretty) as our heroine. The movie certainly gives her character plenty of patience and kindness, though not much is updated with her personality. I think more have been done with that. It’s similar with the prince. He’s casted well and they try to work in more political ideas, but the movie continues to snap back into the classic fairy tale. Not that it’s bad, as it gives the typical Disney audience a well-done fairy tale character. He’ just not updated as much as they could have.
Cate Blanchett is just perfect as Lady Tremaine. Already a good character in animated format, Blanchett gives the character more of a shielded elegance that would prevent most people from seeing the character’s darker nature. I love the more psychological manipulation that’s a part of her, not just giving control of poor Cinderella, but of the people around her. Even the Stepsisters, though goofy, are more sympathetic as it’s made clear that their mother has warped their minds.
I’ll give this four glass slippers out of five. On the whole, I did like the movie enough to recommend just based on the movie’s design. This is the kind of film world that people want to escape from. There’s a lot of effort to put in a more revisionist take on the classic fairy tale. I just wished it could have push more forward.