Ages 11 and under
Once upon a time, a little girl named Ella happily lived with her loving parents. Until one day, Ella’s mother got very sick. On her deathbed, she told her daughter her one great secret of life: “Have courage, and be kind.” Off into adulthood, Ella never forgot her mother’s simple but powerful words. At this point, her father has left for extended travels, leaving Ella’s stepmother and stepsisters to move in to the family home. All seems fine until Ella hears that her father died in travel. It results in the house staff’s dismissal and the permanent residence of the stepmother and her two daughters, leaving Ella to do all the dirty work, under the cruel nickname “Cinderella” to match the cinder she sweeps out of the fireplace. Her hard work distracts her from the grief of losing her parents, but she still makes the most of her situation by treating the house mice with true hospitality.
These circumstances overall do not feel as depressing as intended, for the actors do not work well together, and do not succeed for the most part in brimming the script with magic.
Thor director Kenneth Branagh displays his versatility as a director by appealing strictly to little girls. Though he certainly is no master at it, as the dull dialogue written to inspire the film’s mushy feel-goodness certainly saps from the experience for older audiences. The heart is in the right place with its value of love and relationships, but the actors express little connection to the material.
Downton Abbey’s Lily James is an absolute bore as the title role, consistently forcing it beyond her lack of care. Although she does become livelier as she interacts with her adorable mouse friends. As for the other name actors, Cate Blanchett plays the stepmother with a subtle, devilish vibe, but she’s otherwise unimpressionable with her overdone evil cackle. Helena Bonham Carter blossoms as Ella’s fairy godmother in a fun and ditzy performance, but she mainly feels cast to make her scene more funny than magical.
Then there’s the prince played by Richard Madden. Unlike the animated classic this feature is adapted from, this prince has the well-rounded personality of an apprentice learning his trade. His first meeting with Ella doesn’t actually happen at the ball like tradition says, but on horseback in the middle of the forest. They soon have a second union at the ball, where he tells her all his secrets, which includes a romantic swing in a hideaway garden. This takes a leap forward from any retelling of this famous fairy tale, establishing a believable romance that honors true love rather than rags to riches.
But the real star of the film is the miraculous sets and costumes designed by Dante Ferretti and Sandy Powell respectively. Ferretti creates a believable fairy tale setting that feels cold in the attic and warm at the fireplace; almost like we’re in Arendelle again. Three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell gives each character their own key color that matches their personality: innocent blue for Ella and brilliant green for the prince.
Then Ella gets out her mother’s silky pink dress for the ball, which with a dose of magic is transformed into the most gorgeous sparkly blue ball gown ever designed on and off screen. The intense hours and hands used to build this dress sure paid off: it is crafted out of silk crepeline and yumissima to create a hypnotic spectacle with every step Ella takes. It sways, twirls, floats, and glides with her as she commands the ballroom, and later the fabrics appear to put on a dance of their own as she races back to her coach.
However, the marvelous blue gown may be the only improvement from the original. Aside from the characters’ names and a brief mention of “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo,” not much else relates to the animated classic that saved the Disney studio from bankruptcy. It’s not at all a bad thing, I actually love how this is trying to be its own thing unlike what other remakes would strive for.
This is not the masterpiece that we all dreamed of seeing from a studio like Disney, but for what we’ve got, many little girls will see this as a satisfactory path to finding their happily ever after.
We all grew up with Disney and fairy tales, so we know how they choose to favor love and marriage. They like to teach us how the purpose of marriage is to go from “rags to riches” after a first meeting with some charming prince. No care is put to personality or reason, love is celebrated around the concept of earning some self-seeking reward.
But the good news is, Disney has learned from that over the years. Their newest adaptation to Cinderella tells the same traditional tale, but with greater emphasis put on developing the romance between Ella and the prince. Now they actually have time to talk and get to know each other, affirming how their love for one another is genuine, and not just falling in love with the concept of being in love.
The key to developing their relationship is the simple philosophy that Ella’s mother gives her as a child: “Have courage, and be kind.” These words prove to carry extraordinary value as she’s put through the difficulty of living with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. She never returns hatred with hatred, and even vows to stay at the house in memory of her parents.
It wasn’t easy for her to take the harsh treatment, but she was eventually rewarded for her courage and kindness by finding true love with a man who happens to be the prince. You could say that luck was a huge part of it, but an even greater part went to how she made the most of her predicament.
An example: She didn’t have much of any friends, but she still treated the house mice with hospitality, even feeding them some of the few crumbs of food she had. She didn’t expect anything in return, since they’re mice, but it still helped her feel content with her poor treatment.
It may have looked easy for characters in a fairy tale, but in reality, the challenge is unimaginable, especially for somebody with autism.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #69: I Walked Five Miles to School…
In this chapter in my dad’s book, he describes an autistic’s reaction to a poor situation as “amplifying,” how “what may seem minor to you could be like the end of the world to him.” I cannot even count the number of times I felt this very thing.
I remember back when I went on a New Year’s camp with my church. On our last day there, as we were waiting for the busses to arrive and take us home, we kept hearing updates about how the busses could not make it up the road to our location because the ice was making the road impossible to drive on. Therefore, we had no choice but to wait an extra day to possibly find a bus to take us all home. In addition, the cabins all lost power, and we were knee-deep in snow. All these thoughts were running through my head including, “What if we never make it back home? What if we all die up here? What did I do to deserve this?” Meanwhile, the other students around me were having fun.
These same types of sudden occurrences may be tolerable and even fun to a non-autistic, but for somebody on the spectrum, it would feel like getting teeth pulled without anesthetics. If anyone like me can’t make the most of a difficult situation, then it becomes all the harder to treat other people with kindness like what Ella does.
It’s not that we people with autism are mean people, or refuse to think positive, it’s just that our amplifying of feelings gets in the way of us doing so. We would like to remain positive and see the silver lining in a sudden inconvenience, it’s just hard. We need help. Below are some practical steps that we can all take together so that everyone, whether autistic or not, can take on poor situations with more grace and love.
- If somebody is going through a poor situation, don’t say to them, “it could be worse.” This type of mentality gives off the impression of being whiny or ungrateful, or not even acknowledging the poor predicament. Instead, don’t be afraid to have a good cry about your pain.
- If you know somebody with autism who can’t adjust to inconveniences, allow him or her a good 10-15 minutes alone to sink the thought in. Then once he or she is ready to talk, just listen. Wait to speak until after hearing the other’s inner thoughts.
- If you have autism, then I know how hard it is seeing the bright side of a bad situation. From my experiences, the best solution is to react with kindness. It’s just like how Ella fights her poor predicament with kindness and later gets her rewards, you will too if you show the right heart.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Behind the Scenes of Disney’s Cinderella 2015. Digital image. ComingSoon. CraveOnline Media, 28 Feb 2015. Web. <http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/features/414797-cinderella-movie-behind-the-scenes >.
Kimberly. "Cinderella: The Film That Saved A Company." Frontierland Station. 13 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.frontierlandstation.com/2013/03/13/cinderella-the-film-that-saved-a-company/>.
"Official Cinderella Website on Disney Movies." Web. <http://movies.disney.com/cinderella/>.
Powell, Sandy. Yes, Lily James, you SHALL go to the ball! Swooning Cinderella fans say it's the most breathtaking cinema gown ever. Now its fairy godmother designer reveals how she wove her magic. DailyMail.com. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 4 Apr 2015. Web. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3026011/Yes-Lily-James-SHALL-ball-Swooning-Cinderella-fans-say-s-breathtaking-cinema-gown-fairy-godmother-designer-reveals-wove-magic.html>.