This past week I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of the new Disney live-action version of Cinderella. Also before the movie is a short film called “Frozen Fever” which made every little girl and the adult guy next to me squeal a bit.
In case you have lived under a rock here is the plot:
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and – armed with a pumpkin and a few mice – changes Cinderella’s life forever.
This film is different is one huge way from the recent live action fairy tales Disney has done (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent). They left the story alone. You see there’s a reason we were all crazy about Cinderella in the first place- it’s a GOOD story. Magic, love, loyalty, deception, cute animals, beautiful clothes, a prince… it has everything you need to tuck a child into bed at night. They built the movie on the foundation of a great story instead of trying to make something new.
The Best Parts
While Lily James and Richard Madden are absolutely adorable the highlight of the film hands down is Cate Blanchett who plays a great Wicked Stepmother. ( In the spirit of full disclosure I played the stepmother in a college production so I am partial to the character.) The trick with this character is to make you hate her and feel sorry for her at the same time and she nails it. The one perplexing thing about the character is her style. Her clothing, hair, poise and presence are AMAZING. Yet her two daughters run around in awful dresses. No way would a mother in that time period with such class encourage this!
This movie is beautiful. The sets, the music, the costumes- they are all breathtaking. If they used green screens to film portions of it I couldn’t tell. The bright colors keep the movie interesting and that big, blue ball gown becomes a character all on it’s own. The film looks timeless- I have no doubt in 25 years it will still be a classic.
The Worst Parts
Honestly I couldn’t find much to complain about besides the insanely rude audience in the theatre with us. As I was watching the line I saw people there with young children and knew it was going to be a long night. The movie is rated PG for a reason- it’s live action with no singing. It’s not going to entertain a three year old for very long. If you want to try it with a child that young I suggest waiting for the DVD.
The Moral of the Story
One of my least favorite things about Cinderella has always been how timid she was in the original cartoon. This production manages to capture the strength in someone who chooses to be happy and serve those around her with a good heart. She is a different heroine because she makes a decision to be good instead of destroying those who wrong her (a la Maleficent). While in most portrayals it appears she just is a good person this movie points out her conscience decision and the struggles she has to keep her commitment. In a world where people make promises and back down without regrets it is nice to see someone follow through. In a nice surprise the prince holds the same values, which makes the two of them becoming a couple not seem all that spur of the moment. Love at first sight seems to make a bit more sense.
The movie was wonderful. If you have a little prince or princess in your house who can make it through a two hour live action feature I highly recommend it. It’s worth seeing!