Duration: 112 Min
Country: United States
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Script: Chris Weitz
Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Boham Carter
Summary: When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begins to change after meeting a dashing stranger.
Bibbity Bobbity Boo… We’ve all heard the story of the girl from the cinders, the one with the prince charming, the fairy godmother, evil stepsisters and the stroke of midnight. Cinderella is a timeless tale of hard work and dreams, you could say it’s a tale as old as time, but that phrase belongs to another of the collection. Arguably one of the most famous of the fairytales of old, definitely one of the most replicated. It’s been replicated into books, musicals, theater, more than 50 movies, television, opera; some of them amazing, others not so much. It’s the story from rags to riches and how we should never give up on our dreams.
Among all the film versions of this tale there are three I consider my favorite:
Disney’s Cinderella: Singing, Dancing and talking mice how fix up her dress, who doesn’t remember singing along with the fairy godmother bibbidi bobbity boo? Also Gus gus is always going to be the most adorable of mice. A
Cinderella Story: Early 2000s, Hilary Duff is Sam our Ella character, there’s a masked ball, the glass slipper is a cellphone, the prince is the Star Quarterback, they meet through a chat room. Sam is forced to do her stepmother’s bidding if she wants movie to go to Princeton. It’s Cinderella, if Cinderella was set in High School in Southern California. It’s a fun and classic teen movie.
Ever After: Arguably the best adaptation of the Cinderella story to date, and definitely my ultimate favorite. It takes a more realistic approach to the story, set during the Renaissance, there’s no magic, one of the stepsisters is actually nice and Leonardo Da Vinci takes the role of the fairy godmother. It explores in depth both the character of Henry, the prince, and the character of Danielle, our Cinderella. It’s a very feministic approach to the Cinderella tale as Danielle does all the saving herself.
But how does 2015’s Cinderella stack up against these three flawless adaptations? I’d say it more than holds it weight around it. I’m still partial to Ever After because it was a very important movie in my formative years but this version of Cinderella is definitely the best live-action adaptation that sticks to the basic plotline. It’s beautiful and magical in everything it encompasses: the script, the acting, photography and the cinematography. It also stays close to the Disney source material; I make the distinction because very few adaptations stay close to the original source materials, which are Charles Perrault’s Cendrillion and the Brothers Grimm’s Aschenputtel, in which her father is a alive but lousy, her stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to make the slipper fit and later get blinded by doves, as always the Grimm version is a lot more gruesome than the Disney. Although I should mention her mother’s message is present in Grimm’s original tale and that is something it has it common with the original written source material.
When I first found out they were doing a live-action remake of Cinderella I was a bit skeptical, no one loves fairytales more than me and Cinderella was always in my top 3 so you could say I’m protective. The casting made me want to see it; I didn’t know Lily James (and yet after watching there’s no one else I could see in the role, she captures every aspect of Cinderella perfectly), but I did know Helena Boham-Carter, I knew Richard Madden from Game of Thrones and of course who doesn’t know Cate Blanchett. I expected to go in laugh at Helena Boham-Carter’s antics as the fairy godmother and like I told a few friends, I expected to just go and stare at Richard Madden’s dreamy eyes for the entire movie. What I found myself in was truly a masterpiece in every form of the word. The one thought that stuck with me during this is that it’s been a long time since I smiled so much watching a movie.
In a world full of cynics and chaos, everywhere we turn there’s violence, death and destructions. Planes fall of the sky, cops shoot innocent kids, and our escape from the monotonous should be movies, said movies depict the same we see on the news. Then there’s this gem of a movie, it’s a very welcome distraction. It’s a film that values innocence above all We all know the main plot, the main girl is mistreated by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, thanks to her fairy godmother manages to go to the ball as long as she comes back before the clock strikes 12. She meets the prince and falls in love but before she can reveal herself midnight strikes. This latest version of Cinderella keeps all we loved about the original while adding special details here making it extra special. Ella is beloved by her parents both her father and her mother dote on her, she’s the apple of their eye. Something that should be noted is that this movie includes a phenomenal performance from Haley Atwell as Ella’s mother. She’s the one that gets Ella to believe in magic and tells us what would become the main underlining theme in the movie “Have courage and be kind.”
This is the only movie version of Cinderella where I’ve seen a focus on her mother; most of them start with her single father and his need to give Ella a mother. Lady Tremaine and her daughters come to live with them and right then and there you can see the distinction between the three younger ladies. Ella is kind and gentle while Anastasia and Drisella are spoiled and vain. This is demonstrated most clearly when Ella’s father goes on a trip and asks what each of them wants; Anastasia and Drisella ask for lace and a parasol, meanwhile Ella wants the first branch that crosses his path, that way he’ll be thinking of her the entire time. Not only are the three girls vastly different but also the elder Tremaine is jealous of the attention Ella’s father gives to his daughter and to the memory of his late wife. Tragedy strikes once again and Ella is left orphaned. Since there is no primary caretaker any longer they can’t afford the things they used to so Lady Tremaine fires the staff and basically turns Ella into a servant girl. Ella has moved to the attic, it gets cold at nights, which is why she sometimes sleeps next to the fireplace, which is where the name Cinderella comes from. Through all her trials and tribulations Ella never looses her kindness and keeps remembering her mother’s words.
One of the most memorable things about Cinderella are the animals, whether it’s the birds of the original fairytale or the mice in the Disney version. This version also includes the mice, especially Gus Gus, but also Mr. Goose and a Mr. Lizard. Ella treats them all like they are her family. The use of magic in this movie is subtle but important; Ella has a very special connection with all animals. This captures the attention of Kit, the prince, when she stumbles on him during a hunt. She believes him to be merely an apprentice and believes he is a kindred soul, on his side he is completely enchanted by this woman even though she’s dressed in her servant clothes.
Another thing that differs from the other versions of this classic is the focus on the prince. Normally we don’t know much about the prince; sometimes we don’t even know this name. Here the prince has a name, Kit, and a personality that goes beyond him being charming. We get to see what his relationship with his father is, how he feels about ruling, and we know a bit about his hopes and dreams. He’s more than a pretty face but rather a character of flesh and bone, someone we can actually relate to. Ella enthralls him even though she’s but a simple country girl. Which brings an explanation to why all of the women of the kingdom are invited to the ball. The story goes on as usually, although we do find out that the reason Ella stays in that house despite the mistreatment is because she made a promise to her parents to always protect and take care of their home. She fixes up her mother’s dress for the ball but of course her stepmother rips it. They leave and Ella is left brokenhearted with her mother’s dress in shatters, which is where the fairy godmother comes in. Some call it typecasting but I think Helena Boham-Carter’s acting is incredible. She’s not the old kind godmother of the Disney version but rather a version that’s more Glinda the good witch. The following scene is hilarious how she keeps choosing between different things to transform. The mice become horses, lizards become footmen and Mr. Goose becomes the driver.
All that is missing is the matter of the dress, the godmother mentions changing it but Ella asks her if she can just fix it up a bit. It was her mother’s dress and Ella wants to wear because she feels that way her mother is going with her to the dance. The way the movie brings to mind her mother at these pivotal moments makes everything feel more real. Every girl wants her mother to see her off to her first real dance and this is Ella’s way of paying tribute to her. What follows is one of the most visually stunning sequences in the entire film. The entire focus is on Ella as she twirls around as her dress changes and it’s a cinematographic masterpiece. Just as she’s about to leave the godmother notices Ella’s shoes, flats, and asks her if that’s the best she can do.
When Ella makes a quip about no one noticing the godmother makes her take them off and so the legendary glass slippers are created. Which you’ll find are really comfortable. She lets her go with a glamour spell, so that her tormentors don’t recognize her, and a warning to watch the clock. The ball is as magnificent as expected; Kit is being introduced to various princesses just as the time for the first dance approaches. Of course that’s the moment Ella comes in and he immediately goes to her and asks for the honor to lead her through this first dance. They could not have cast a better pair because the chemistry between Lily James and Richard Madden is undeniable. It is as breathtaking as it is beautiful. Her innocence combined with the pure devotion we see in his eyes makes their connection all the more powerful. All of their scenes leave you smiling and you can feel the pure love these two individuals feel for each other. You can feel their connection and you understand why this man practically moves heaven and earth to find her again.
Something that this film does really well is that every scene feels important. Every scene is mesmerizing; the scene between Kit and his father at the end is especially poignant. There is a twist involving the Duke and Lady Tremaine, which I thought was brilliant on behalf of the writer. There’s the character of the captain of the Guard who is Kit’s right hand man throughout the movie and who plays a vital part in the end. One of the greatest scenes is when Kit finally finds his missing girl he asks who she is she answers Cinderella. Names have power that is something we’ve learned in countless stories and in life. By embracing the title Ella can no longer by hurt by the hurtful nickname because Cinderella is who she is.
If her step-sisters hadn’t been as cruel as they were, she would have never had the urge to go out on her horse and she’d never have stumbled upon Kit. The simple country girl is who he fell in love with and that is who she is. The slipper fits perfectly and as they are leaving Ella turns to her stepmother and forgives her. In forgiving her stepmother we are once again shown Ella’s goodness and reminded of a simple fact. Forgiveness isn’t about what people deserve but rather something we need to do in order to let go of resentments in our heart. In the final scene Ella and Kit are standing in front of the portraits of all 4 of their parents and they repeat the message of the film “Be kind and have courage, and all will be well.”
What makes this film different than the rest? It’s elegant in its simplicity and yet you feel like all the characters have a rhyme and reason for the things they do, even Lady Tremaine. The colors, the photography, sound editing and the cinematography in the movie are all breathtaking. The acting is on point and the underlying message is truly beautiful and one that we constantly forget in this imperfect world. Being kind in a world that isn’t kind to you is everything. Kindness is always rewarded, as is love. They are the two aspects of this world that take us farther than anything else. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. All we truly need is kindness and love and everything else will fall into place.