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.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, 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>.