I had the great pleasure of seeing this movie in the theaters with my sisters. When I learned that Disney was remaking their animated 1950 Cinderella classic into a live-action movie, I wasn’t as excited as a Disney princess aficionado ought to be. I had my doubts, mostly concerning a retelling that would be essentially the same. Though I adore all the Disney animated movies, with the princess films being a childhood obsession, Cinderella hadn’t been on my top list. The plot was simple to me even as a child and, I wasn’t a huge fan of the long mice scenes. I wondered how they would keep the interest of the viewers if this wasn’t going to be a dramatically different retelling. Well, they had no problem in keeping mine. Just yesterday I decided to finally re-watch the movie since it released on DVD. I have to say, I loved it even more than the first.
Set in a fantastical period of an indeterminable time, Ella grows up vastly loved by her kind parents. Ella’s heart is broken when her mother dies, but she takes on the sweet courage that her mother had exampled for her. Her father eventually remarries and dies shortly after leaving Ella with her stepmother and two stepsisters. The cruel stepmother fires the staff and forces Ella to serve her family like a servant. Even Ella’s stepsisters call her Cinderella because she sleeps near the cinders. Ella takes a ride to the forest where she stumbles upon a handsome prince. She doesn’t recognize him and he introduces himself as Kit. When Ella learns that a ball is being thrown, she decides to attend – in her mother’s old gown. Her stepmother, jealous of Ella’s beauty that outshines her daughters, rips her dress up and forces her to stay behind. But magic waits in the garden for Ella – and a fairy godmother gives Ella a magical gown, glass slippers and carriage with the warning that by midnight the spell will break. Ella’s night at the ball is indeed enchanted but when her stepmother figures her out her identity and tries to interfere, can Ella and the Prince ever be together?
Obviously if you’ve seen any Cinderella adaptation, you know the answer to this. Cinderella 2015 doesn’t reinvent the wheel of the classic fairy-tale in any way. Instead it captures the breathtaking beauty, childhood enchantment and pure heart of the original fairy-tale – and animated film – and makes it more beautiful and exquisite than we’ve ever seen.
I can rattle off a long list of Cinderella movies I’ve seen, but I don’t think one of them is as utterly beautiful as this one is. Every gown, every shot is stolen from the soul of a fairy-tale. The costume designer is brilliant; the mixture of gowns from different eras blended together makes a unique fantasy world. I loved seeing animated Cinderella’s many gowns come to life. The ball gown is perfection – that huge skirt with layered petticoats and the little butterflies on the neckline. Which leads to the ball scene itself. Director Kenneth Branagh brought together an eye-candy dance that I could watch on repeat. The gentle, fluid movements, the swishing of Cinderella’s fantastic dress, the choreography, the opulence of the grand room – I simply wanted to exchange my life with Cinderella’s during that moment, just to experience that dance!!
My kudos to the casting director! Hayley Atwell briefly plays Cinderella’s mother and is beautifully poignant. Ben Chaplin is so sweet as her doting father. Cate Blanchett is gorgeously wicked as the stepmother, utterly personifying elegance. Choosing Helena Bonham Carter for the fairy godmother is an indisputable choice. Who else could be better? There are so many excellent actors in supporting roles.
I love Richard Madden (known for his role in Game of Thrones) as Prince Kit. He’s so natural and easy in the role even while playing a fairy-tale prince character, which is difficult to not make stiff and exaggerated. His character is compassionate and kind – and the way he looks at Cinderella, you can see the emotion brimming in his eyes. This movie made me believe Lily James is Cinderella. She made the kind, gentle-natured Cinderella feel real and brought real pathos every time she reached a breaking point, only to courageously rise again.
There are some changes in this version from the animated film, though many of them small, but I loved all of them – including showing Cinderella’s mother, having the stepsisters turn Ella’s name into Cinderella, and so on. Some of my favorite moments were Cinderella one on one with her mother and father, and the Prince with his father. I love seeing onscreen families who genuinely love each other - and I probably teared up multiple times watching them.
Disney has given me so many childhood movies that I still love today. I really loved their brave decision to make Cinderella 2015 carry a theme that is sometimes unusual in modern day cinema – that of the power of kindness, compassion and ultimately forgiveness. It paid off because by the end of the movie, I felt the strength it took Cinderella to live like that and was moved by the thought that her kindness gave her freedom, unlike a few other characters that were being eaten up by their own hate and bitterness. This is a movie you can share with anyone of any age – little girl to grandmother. I’ll definitely be treasuring it!!