Latest posts by Alexander P. Garza (see all)
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I had the pleasure of seeing the live action version of Cinderella last weekend with my wife at the Santikos Palladium in Richmond, TX. I love that theater because of the draft beer selection, great arcade, bowling lanes, and a ton of food options.
The film stars Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, and Helena Bonham Carter and it held the top spot in ticket sales for its opening weekend of March 13. Kenneth Branagh directs, and he takes us along for a wonderful retelling of a classic story. The story is nothing new. The telling of it is though. Branagh cleverly weaves comedic bits into this updated retelling of the romantic fairy tale. His Shakespearean influence is noticed in the film, and the film is better for it. When I first heard that there was going to be a Cinderella live-action film, it was one of those where you just aren’t sure if it’s going to work out. When I realized Branagh was directing, it made me want to go see it.
If you don’t know the Cinderella story, let me sum it up: girl is treated like a servant by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, she is friends with animals, especially mice, and likes to sing, a fairy godmother comes to grant her a dress, carriage, and glass slippers to go to the prince’s ball, but the spell will be broken at midnight. There, she and the Prince fall in love, and she runs away in a hurry when midnight strikes, leaving behind a glass slipper. Later, the prince sets out to try the glass slipper on every maiden in the land. The prince finds Cinderella, the shoe fits, and they live happily ever after.
This film stays pretty close to the classic story with a few changes, all for the better. There is considerable back story shown at the beginning of the film. We are introduced to Cinderella as a young girl, with a mother and a father, and they live a happy life, until a fatal illness strikes her mother. Before she passes away, she gives Cinderella some words of wisdom which are a lasting motif and theme for the rest of the film: “have courage, and be kind”. After her mother passes away, her father looks after Cinderella for years, until he sums up the courage to ask Cinderella for permission to remarry the Wicked Stepmother (Blanchett), which she grants. The stepmother moves into their home and brings along two spoiled brats named Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). Also, the prince and Cinderella meet in the woods first, and not at the ball first like in the classic animated film. The animal transformations into human like forms was pretty funny and entertaining. It reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Another way this differs from classic versions of the story is the added layers of depth to the characters of the stepmother, Cinderella, and the prince. The stepmother describes how she has gone through difficult times in her life, and no longer trusts men, or anyone for that matter. Blanchett is flat out amazing. She is at the top of her game. She really brings this character to life. A real Disney female villain- brought to life! There is this fake smile she puts on that is haunting, like when she tells Cinderella that she couldn’t possibly prepare their food AND dine with them. Lily James is very good too. I have yet to see Downton Abbey, and haven’t seen her in other films that I can readily recall. But this was a very good way to be introduced to her. She plays the part with honesty, and shows us how hard it is to maintain a “have courage, and be kind” attitude in the face of her abusers.
The prince (Richard Madden) is also given some depth. He doesn’t want to let Cinderella know that he is a prince, in fear that his wealth will scare her off or have her treat him differently. Also, his father is sick and later passes away, a humbling experience for the prince.
The music, the writing, the sets, and the costumes all stood out in a marvelous way. The use of color was an element that added to creating a fairy-tale atmosphere as a live-action movie. Finally, one of the actors that I thought was fun to watch and had a great role was Nonso Anozie, who played the Captain and the Prince’s best friend. Despite the fact that we knew what the story was about, it was worth watching it retold by Branagh and his entire team.