We’ve had plenty of live-action adaptations of the tale of Cinderella. From the teeny-bopper A Cinderella Story to pre-Brokeback Anne Hathway’s Ella Enchanted, none of them really did the original 1950’s film a lot of justice.
While it can be agreed upon that the old Disney classics are whimsical and magical beyond belief, there was a missing element of true personality that we, as the audience, needed to relate to the characters. Sure, we all loved our Disney princesses, but most of their personalities were as vanilla as they come. We all know what Cinderella is about. The kind and loving girl that gets pushed around like the playground bitch. Been there, done that. However, there was surprising liveliness that Lily James brought to the character that I was entirely unprepared for. There was an inherent kindness in her eyes, a sweetness in how she carried herself that really made me believe she was Cinderella. She managed to take one of our beloved fairy tale princesses and turn her into a real person. She was absolutely phenomenal.
This might sound ridiculous, but I spent 60% of the movie with tears swimming in my eyes. Hayley Atwell’s dedicated performance as Cinderella’s dying mother completely tore my heart out of my chest and fed it through a shredder. Her last words to her daughter to “have courage and be kind” – words that she continued to live by even after everything was taken from her – made me sob like a newborn.
And good lord, where would we be without the evil stepmother, Cate Blanchett? I don’t think there’s a person on this planet that doesn’t love her to pieces, and for good reason, too. As striking as she looks, with her bright red lips and her startling blue eyes, her entire presence in the film screams a viciousness and demoralized cruelty that only Cate Blanchett can pull off. She dominated every scene like it was her job, and made us love it. What I enjoyed most was that the film gave her reason to be the way that she was. She isn’t evil for the sake of being evil.
Of course, something must be said about Helena Bonham-Carter, the ridiculously fabulous fairy godmother who sweeps in to save the poor Cinderella and gifts her a wonderful night that she so much deserves. Helena’s characters are always a bit topsy-turvy and strange, but this one is definitely my favourite. Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera were delightful as Cinderella’s horribly pitiful stepsisters. In fact, I don’t think there was a single performance in the film that didn’t work for me.
Prince Charming. Oh, Charming. I was a bit dubious about the casting choice, since Richard Madden isn’t exactly what we call ’traditionally handsome’. However, the moment he appeared on screen, my doubts melted away. The way he gazed into Cinderella’s eyes, the way his entire soul and body yearned to be with her again made me weep tears of unparalleled joy and envy. The chemistry they had, the way they soared across the dance floor together, the way they melted into each other like two pieces of a puzzle… okay, I need to stop before I lose my mind. All in all, Lily James and Richard Madden made me believe in the whole “love conquers all” spiel again.
I know it’s early in the year, but the sheer amount of details in this movie deserves a Best Production Design Oscar RIGHT NOW. I’ve watched the 1950’s Cinderella at least a hundred times, and it made my jaw drop because of how well they incorporated the old designs into the new movie. From Cinderella’s ball gown, to the crystal chandeliers, to the canopies over the stepsisters’ beds, I almost wanted to cry when I saw how beautiful and intricate everything was, with how much thought and care was put into making this as faithful to the old movie as possible. That’s not something you see every day.
In addition to the stunning design, there must be something said about the music. As if Cinderella losing her father isn’t bad enough, add some wailing cellos and weeping crescendos and you’ve got one blubbering mess trying to keep it down so other people can watch the movie too. Also, Cinderella and Prince Charming having their first dance to Edith Piaf’s ‘La valse d’lamour’ just makes it all that more magical than it already is.
Cinderella kept the essence of the original story very much intact, which, I’m sure, is something every Disney aficionado is going to appreciate. While they did take some minor liberties with the story and some characters, it didn’t stray far. Again, we all know the story, we all know what happens, but there were little twists here and there that kept me on my toes.
I went in with the grudge I was still holding against Snow White and the Huntsman and Alice In Wonderland. I was mentally preparing myself for watching one of my most beloved childhood stories get slaughtered over the course of two hours. Little did I know that my love for old-fashioned fairy tales would be renewed with a vengeance (that can’t be the right word). It could’ve been just another adaptation with the same old story, but the outstanding performances, the direction, and the production design launched it into the stratosphere. The original 1950’s film will always have a special spot in my heart, but the new Cinderella may possibly be my favourite reimagining of the Cinderella story. Who knew?
So with all that said… Kenneth Branaugh, will you direct all future fairy tale live-action adaptations? Please and thank you.