Published on March 2nd, 2015 | by Maria0
I am still waltzing as I write this after watching Disney’s new live-action Cinderella movie directed by Kenneth Branagh (mind you, waltzing and typing don’t go together very well so bear with me). I must say I was completely taken with this film. Expect to be immersed in the fairy tale kingdom throughout and experience a number of magnificently magical moments. It is lovely to see great attention to detail, starting with the lovingly designed costumes, interiors and architecture, down to vibrant colour schemes perfectly matched to every character.
Let me start with the cast, and what a treat it is. Lily James shines as Cinderella, bringing such natural grace and sincerity to this beloved character. I must mention here I am very impressed with the way the story is handled. This is not a rewritten fairy tale, as we have seen with some of Disney’s recent live action movies. However, it does beautifully what the name suggests – it brings the story to life, at the same time sending out an inspiring message. “Have courage and be kind” is the principle this character lives by, however when the time comes she is able to stand up for herself and show how much inner strength her kind heart carries.
Richard Madden brings us Prince Charming, not only decidedly handsome but also kind, driven and open-minded. We see a nice development of his character, a great change from the classic Disney films which tend to overlook the Prince’s side of the story. There are a number of excellent comedy scenes at the palace, for instance when Prince Charming’s portrait is being painted to be sent out to his potential brides in which we learn the Prince is not afraid to laugh at himself, a rather rare trait in fairy tale royalty.
Cate Blanchett is devilishly beautiful and wonderfully cruel as Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s stepmother. We see a bold and memorable performance, at the same time subtle enough to prevent the character from turning into a caricature. Once again I must mention the costumes, as the fusion of different eras in Blanchett’s stunning outfits complements this character beautifully. If you want to find out more about the costume designer’s Sandy Powell’s inspiration for the costumes check out this article.
And then of course we have the fantastic Fairy Godmother, portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter, who is also the narrator throughout the film. She is dressed in an enormous ballgown with wings and isn’t necessarily all that efficient straight away, but is without doubt magical. In fact, the scene of her transforming a pumpkin into a carriage has to be one of the most visually gripping, especially in a film that overflows with breathtakingly picturesque moments.
Overall, I found this feature utterly delightful. It is absolutely worth a watch and is friendly to kids and grown-ups alike. The audience were enchanted by the dazzling detail, fantastic performances and a truly timeless touching story.
Spoiler alert, if you don’t want to find out some of the spins added to the classic tale in the movie you may want to look away now. There are some defining moments present in the film that make it really quite special.
The beginning of the movie shows us Ella’s golden childhood. She is surrounded by loving parents and sees the world in her own magical way – befriending the farm animals and believing in Fairy Godmothers. Ella’s life changes when her mother passes away, asking her daughter to promise to “have courage and be kind”. I found this scene extremely touching and believable yet kid-friendly. The loss of loved ones is handled really well here and elsewhere in the film.
Years go by and both father and daughter alike grieve, but they find great strength in each other and the memories of Ella’s mother. Eventually Ella’s father remarries in an attempt at restoring happiness in their household. As we all know, the new stepmother and her daughters do not treat Ella as family and matters only get worse when Ella’s father dies while away on a business trip. Upon hearing of his death Ella’s stepfamily instantly show their true colours as they proclaim “where’s my lace!”, “how are we going to live?!” and “where’s my parasol!” without any regards for the tragedy.
With the loss of Ella’s father, gone is the family’s only income and so Lady Tremaine dismisses the household, leaving the chores to the only capable member – Ella. She is being treated increasingly as a servant rather than family and eventually has to give up her bedroom for the benefit of her stepsisters. One evening Ella’s attic room gets too cold to sleep in and the girl is forced to spend the night by the dying embers of the kitchen fire. When waking up in a flurry she throws cinders on to her face, and in a never to be repeated moment of wit by one of the stepsisters is nicknamed Cinder-Ella. Cinderella gets promptly dismissed from ever dining with them again in the family dining room. However, what starts off as an awful day does get decidedly better when, out of frustration at her situation, Ella goes for a ride in the forest and runs across a gentleman who introduces himself as an apprentice called Kit. The two instantly hit it off and their attraction isn’t just based on good looks, but on the way Ella challenges Kit’s views and makes him look at the world through a different perspective. She tells him that just because certain things “are done” doesn’t mean they should be done.
Upon returning to the palace, our Prince finds out his own father, the King, is in poor health and would like to see his son marry a Princess for the good of the Kingdom. A ball is thrown at the palace as the Prince must choose his bride. The Prince cleverly orders it so every maiden in the land is invited, in hopes of the mysterious girl he met in the woods making an appearance.
At last it is the night of the ball and everyone is ready, including Cinderella who mends her mother’s old dress for this occasion. But her stepmother rips the dress and forbids her from coming to the ball. Lady Tremaine and her daughters leave and Cinderella feels for once broken by their cruelty. This is when we meet Fairy Godmother who does a magnificent job getting Cinderella ready for the ball and casting a spell to make sure she isn’t recognised by her stepfamily. Need I mention how beautiful the dress and the shoes are? It is time for the first dance now and the Prince only has eyes for Cinderella as she arrives. She realises he is the heir to the throne and he assumes her for a princess. This dance scene is absolutely breathtaking. Between fantastic camera work, excellent choreography and the chemistry between two actors, it was one of the moments in the film I had a huge lump in my throat.
Alas, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella must leave as the magic is running out. She is in such a hurry she loses one of her shoes as she runs to her carriage. As expected, the Prince wants to find the mystery princess and even the King on his deathbed tells his son to follow his heart and marry this “forgetful girl who loses her shoes”. I love that they added a bit of light-heartedness to this sad scene.
It almost looks like this might be the happy ending, but Lady Tremaine conspires with the Grand Duke and breaks Cinderella’s glass slipper after finding out her secret. By a lucky turn of events, the Prince does of course find Cinderella, which is when she chooses to stand up to her stepmother and protect herself. There is a wonderful moment here that had me in tears when Cinderella wonders if she will be enough for the Prince as she is, a peasant girl with nothing to offer but her kind heart and unbreakable spirit. Despite this hesitation, when Prince Charming asks her name she simply replies “Cinderella”, not letting a purposefully disparaging nickname define her personality. This brings us to the actual happy ending and the beautiful snowy wedding scene with yet another exquisite gown worn by the bride.
As you may have gathered, I found the new Cinderella a truly enchanting watch and can hardly pinpoint any faults. It has by miles exceeded my expectations based on Disney’s latest few movies. Cinderella provides a captivating experience that will warm your heart and remind you exactly why this is still one of the most popular stories ever told.
Cinderella opens in cinemas across UK on 27, March 2015