It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Cinderella. I grew up loving her character and her story but most of all, Disney’s cult classic animated depiction of the tale from 1950. Something about the sweet story always captured my heart, and when Disney brought it to screen, Cinderella embodied everything there was to know about being a pleasant, feminine, hopeful young lady. There have been other adaptations of the ultimate rags-to-riches tale in the last several years, notably Ever After starring Drew Barrymore (which I loved) and A Cinderella Story starring Hilary Duff, but nothing even came close to the simple greatness that was the animated version. So, when I heard that Disney would be releasing an all-new version of the story, this time live action, I trembled with as much excitement and anticipation as I did curiosity and hope. Well, I went to see it at last on Saturday evening, and I’m reporting for duty as your trusted friend to share if it’s worth its weight in gold.
The short answer? Yes. A thousand times, yes.
Cinderella was everything I hoped it would be and much, much more.
I sit in awe because I have so many thoughts and I don’t know how to get them out. Here comes the word vomit that will comprise my long answer…
Out of the movies that I’ve chosen to see in theatres thus far in 2015, Cinderella beats them with ease, and I share this fact as a general movie-goer, rather than a die-hard fan of the princess and her narrative. I say this, and I know you’ll question my reasoning but let me explain:
They Paid Attention to (the correct) Detail(s)
The minute the movie started, I was transported to Ella’s land of childhood joy and fantasy, a world in which she loved her mother and father so. It was the perfect way to kick off the awe-inspiring movie and guess what? The movie never lost that plot or vibe. We, the viewers, got a terrific insight into Ella’s childhood and why she is the thoughtful, kind and courageous woman that she is, and it was all done with just the right delicate touch. For children or folks who never really cared to see it and fans of the story alike, the story flowed effortlessly, never missing out a crucial element that would have confused or allowed me to slowly lose interest.
In this version, we witness why Ella’s stepmother, who becomes head of Ella’s household after her father remarries and then suddenly dies, goes on to make her life misery (Cole’s notes: pure jealousy). We also learn how Ella got her famous name, after she falls asleep in front of the fireplace (because her new bedroom in the attic is too cold to sleep in) and therefore gets soot and ash on her face, and instead of her stepsisters helping her, they ridicule her. The animals in the movie did not talk at all (unless in their human form…is that a spoiler? Not really), which at first I didn’t like. However, as my mother so rightly pointed out, having talking animals would have taken away from the grown up appeal that the movie has and would have diminished how realistic and relatable it all felt (well put, Mom, thanks!). Plus, the most important animal characters, Lucifer, the evil cat, and Ella’s mice friends (namely Gus Gus, my personal fave), were still perfectly personified through their (somewhat) lifelike expression and size. I’m telling you, they didn’t miss a beat.
The Sights & The Sounds
Speaking of beats, oh my, the score to this movie was beyond fantastic! It was very subtle, never in-your face music, but it went along perfectly with the bundles of emotions the viewer was flying through at every moment in the film. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because I love and cling to every single second of the music in the trailer, but wow, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the score. There was no singing in the film, well, no singing of songs that were in the animated version by cast members (not that kind of movie, if you want
too much lots of singing, you might want to see Into The Woods), but I’m okay with the way everything came together. Moreover, the way that the various makeup looks, costumes and sets were put together and more importantly, the way they looked on screen was perfection. Everything from Ella’s ball gown (HELLO) to…a dress that she’s later seen wearing in the film, let’s say, were exactly how it should have been. And Prince “Charming” Kit’s wardrobe was nothing to laugh at either, and I can even remember times when there were subtle details of blue going on to highlight Ella’s outfit (so smart!). The entire crew did such a good job at making the whole feel/vibe of Ella’s story come to life and as aforementioned, they didn’t miss a single detail (like, for example, the china used in the famous Lucifer chasing mice scene — which was an homage that I quite enjoyed — so lovely!).
Is it just me or was that our PERFECT CHEMISTRY?
The casting of this film was impeccable. Every choice that was made for who should play what role was perfect, right down to the questionable choice for Prince Kit. Yes, I was a little worried about how things were going to look onscreen between Lily James (who plays Ella) and Richard Madden (who plays Kit) but the two shared an incomparable, mostly unspoken chemistry that just made the two seem right for each other, right from their first meeting.
I was also unsure of how the modern, stronger girl that I heard they were making Ella into would fare against other characters in the film, particularly Cate Blanchett’s very strong and scary (and very well done) Lady Tremaine, but I was pleased to see that Lily James’ portrayal of Ella worked really well. She balanced the role perfectly; I never pitied Ella, for she was always strong and secure, but at times you could tell that she was downtrodden and missed her parents. I imagine that this is a really hard mix to pull off as an actor, because one scene or subtle pull in either direction and it could easily not work. However, James did an excellent job. She also had loads of onscreen chemistry with Helena Bonham Carter who plays Ella’s fairy Godmother (who, by the way, I’ve never seen look so beautiful! Seriously, she needs to stop acting her favoured peculiar or chilling roles and act more roles like this because I didn’t realize until this movie that she just happens to be a gorgeous woman AS WELL AS the mega talent that she is) and their scenes offered up, arguably, a few of the most magical moments of the film.
My final casting note is one that you’d think, in 2015, isn’t something that would stand out but it definitely did. I have to give Sir Kenneth Branagh and the casting directors (and anyone who had a say in the cast of this movie) a virtual high five for the incredibly diverse cast in this spectacular film! I know, it sounds crazy to say, but I was so pleased that every single character wasn’t of a certain complexion; there were actually different cultures and ethnicities represented in Ella’s world. It was so refreshing! Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era, one of (more) accurate representation of the world we live in in fairy tale or fantasty movies!
Okay, time to wrap things up in a nice pretty little bow, just like the movie did (in the best way)! Overall, I would say that Cinderella was a fantastic movie. It never dragged on, it kept me engaged, the acting was top notch and the film as a whole made me feel several different emotions. I am not ashamed to say that I teared up on 4 separate occasions during the 113 minute run time. Yes, I connected with Ella’s character and really felt as she did, which, if you can make a little audience member feel that way, that’s success, no?
Furthermore, the film as a whole retained the whole fairy tale, magical aspect while never making me feel too young (or old) or out of place. They took a special story, made a few changes (which I’ll get to in a minute), and brought it to life in the most magical way. I believe that this is a film that appeals to everyone, young or old, boy or girl, those who know of the story or those who are Cinderella newbies, and that takes skill. Whether you’re a kid at heart or a stone cold fox, when you see this movie, you’ll feel like magic really exists and that true love and positivity conquers all, even if only for 2 hours.
I believe that, among many other things, the plot changes are what seals the deal and makes this movie worth seeing for all, even if you’re a Cinder-hater. While most of us know the story, there are some key changes that make this adaptation even better, not to the point in which you wonder what will happen next, but you’ll wonder how they’ll get to certain major plot points. If you believe that Cinderella should be treated as an equal character, with her own brain, a character that doesn’t need to be saved by anyone but herself, you’ll find this version of the story particularly enjoyable. Without revealing too much, I think that making the theme/mantra of the film that Ella should always remember to have courage and be kind was an essential tool for keeping things running smoothly and paced evenly. I loved that Ella’s spirit really showed through throughout the film, like when the “beggar” showed up at her door the night of the ball or when she meets Kit. This is the side of Cinderella that I’ve always enjoyed; while some find her to be ditzy (or see the potential for insanity within her), she appeals to the more innocent or, maybe even naïve, side of me, the hopeless romantic that believes in kindness, joy, resilience and that a smile never hurt anyone or anything. 🙂 The best part? In this film, Cinderella was everything she was in the 1950 classic movie, and more. #winning
Overall, I’m not one of those crazy movie-goers who applaud at the end of movies (whenever those people bust out the applause, I always feel the need to shout out “DECORUM!!!,” but I know that would be crazy ;)), but I would have totally risked my street cred (and dignity) to clap at the end of this one. Don’t worry, I didn’t, but it was such a well-done movie, in every aspect, I felt a little underappreciative by simply walking out of the theatre. I do tip a virtual hat to you, Sir Kenneth, for making this film a GREAT one, and one that I would recommend to any and everyone. I imagine it takes a lot of time, effort, skill and revision to make a film as great as he did, but that is why he does what he does. He can see the magic in everything. 😉 ♥
That’s right, folks, it receives 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a must see (and evidently, I’m not the only one who thinks so, the film pulled in a whopping $132.5 million worldwide at the box office in this, the opening weekend! You go Cinders!! 🙂
I hope you enjoyed my first “official” movie review! Let me know, do you want to see the revival of Cinderella? Do you have a particular reason for wanting to see it or is it just another movie for you? If you don’t want to see it, how come? Or, have you already seen it? If so, what did you think of it!? Be sure to let me know down below!
Lots of love (and kindness & courage),
ps – I know this post was extraordinarily long…I’m sorry, I just couldn’t contain my Cinder-thoughts! I hope it was worth the read, though! Thanks for sticking around if you’ve made it to this point! 🙂