Editor’s Notes: Cinderella is currently out in wide release.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who believed in the power of kindness, fell in love and married her Prince Charming and lived happily ever after. Based on Charles Perrault’s French fairy tale Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de verre, the timeless and much-loved story of Cinderella finds its way back onto the big screen. Disney’s animated musical film from 1950 is probably the best known and mostly admired adaptation to young and old audiences. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Chris Weitz, Disney turns its animated masterpiece into a modernized, live-action remake that still sticks to its old roots and follows the plot of its predecessor with only a few changes in its narrative.
It depicts Ella’s (Lily James) tragic fate after her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage to Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), a cold and cruel woman, the complete opposite to her own loving mother. When her father suddenly dies on a business trip leaving the family without a steady income, the genuine and kind Ella is left alone with her step-mother and her step-sisters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), who disrespect and misuse her as their personal maid. Despite their fierce mockery and jealousy, Ella believes in her mother’s last words when she taught her to “have courage and be kind” because “where there is kindness there is goodness, and where there is goodness there is magic”. Obviously, I am sure we all know the story by heart, this is exactly what happens. Ella meets Kit (Richard Madden), the charming Prince she believes to be an apprentice at the king’s court, and hopes to see him again at the royal ball organized for the young Prince to find a suitable match for his future throne. When Ella is left behind by Lady Tremaine and not allowed to attend the public ball, her kindness is rewarded by a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who casts a magical spell on her, promising Ella an unforgettable night at the ball where she is to meet her Prince Charming again and the rest is literary and cinematic fairy tale history.
Cinderella is everything you would expect of a classic Disney fairytale adaptation: it is romantic and sincere, enchanting, charming and heart-warming…
The film is characterized by an overall light atmosphere, thanks to its charming, witty screenplay and its bright and colorful visuals (nice special effects too) that draw you into the magical world of Cinderella. The picturesque and glowing images are mainly emphasized through the stunning, lavish costume design by Oscar-winning costume designer, Sandy Powell. Although Cinderella is the title’s namesake, the film is not necessarily carried by its heroine, who lacks personal character development and despite Cinderella’s leitmotif to “have courage and be kind”, its protagonist often misses the courage that she continuously emphasizes throughout the film. Besides this flaw, the script offers and develops a profound complexity of vicious characters such as Lady Tremain or the Duke (Stellan Skarsgård). Especially Blanchett’s brilliant portrayal of the wonderfully evil step-mother adds a sense of humanity and vulnerability to Ella’s antagonist. The well-cast ensemble is definitely one of the film’s strength which includes a number of familiar TV actresses and actors such as Lily James (Downton Abbey), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones) and Sophie McShera (Downton Abbey) for example with big screen celebrities such as Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgård and Cate Blanchett.
Cinderella is everything you would expect of a classic Disney fairytale adaptation: it is romantic and sincere, enchanting, charming and heart-warming, a typical feel-good movie with the precious, predictable yet desired happy ending and a number of slightly over-the-top scenes every so often. But it also remains old-fashioned, especially in terms of its underdeveloped main female character preaching constantly about a feature, she herself is lacking when it’s important: courage. That being said, it would have been great to see Disney step up once more and introduce the audience to a strong-willed, more feminist character similar to Frozen’s lead.
Cinderella is everything you would expect of a classic Disney fairytale adaptation: it is romantic and sincere, enchanting, charming and heart-warming, a typical feel-good movie with the precious, predictable yet desired happy ending.