When the all-new live action Cinderella film was first announced at the 2013 D23 Expo, I have to admit my first reaction was, “Why would they do that?!” Given that Cinderella always been my favorite Disney princess, I was caught up in the “If it ain’t broke” mentality. As time went on and more of the cast was revealed, along with stills of the film, my excitement surprisingly began to grow. Specifically, Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother were particularly intriguing, and suddenly, March 2015 couldn’t come soon enough! So after going from one extreme to the next, how did it fare? Continue reading to find out!
Before we get into the film, let’s take a look at Frozen Fever – the brand new animated short playing before Cinderella in theaters.
The key players in Frozen Fever are Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven and of course, Olaf. It’s Anna’s birthday, and Elsa wants to make up for years of missed celebrations together. Naturally, not all goes as planned and comedy ensues. While there are a few laugh-out-loud moments (largely thanks to Olaf), there’s an unnecessary amount of singing that makes the dialogue feel clunky and awkward. I mean, I’m all for a good Disney tune, and several came out of Frozen, but there are some parts of the conversation that would be better if spoken and not forced through song. The whole short felt like a rushed idea that was pieced together as quickly as possible. If you’re feeling thawed out from all things Frozen, this may not be for you; however, if you find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s a chance you’ll love it.
Going back to our feature presentation, Cinderella takes place on a lovely little farmhouse in the countryside. The film tells the story of Ella (Lily James), a little girl who loves her parents, talks to animals, believes in fairies, and is taught to always have courage and be kind (a mantra repeated SEVERAL times throughout the film). After a series of unfortunate events, she’s eventually left to live with her step-mother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her two bumbling step-sisters, Anastasia and Drizella in her beloved farmhouse, seemingly destined to be nothing more than their house servant. That’s where the magic comes in… along with Prince Charming (we can’t leave him out).
- Dazzling Visuals. From the opening shot to the closing credits, the entire film is absolutely breathtaking. The landscapes, the sets, and the costumes are all so beautifully done. It’s almost 2 solid hours of eye candy.
- Costumes. While this goes along with the visuals, it really deserves it’s own category. From periphery characters to the main cast, the costumes are divine. Notably Lady Tremaine, who actually looked like a woman from the 1940’s who was transported back in time to the 18th century. Which sounds weird, but it just works. However, there was one costume in particular that I felt they dropped the ball on – see the next section for my thoughts on that.
- Casting. I’m happy to say that Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham did not disappoint in their roles. Where each of them could have easily crossed a line into becoming a caricature, they were both perfect. Also, Lily James’ portrayal of Ella was lovely. She has just the right mixture of grace, poise, and playfulness. I also feel like I should mention Lucifer, Lady Tremaine’s pet cat. I assumed they would’ve excluded him, but they actually did a fantastic job incorporating him. I only wish he would’ve been in it more.
- Romance. Lily James (Ella) and the Richard Madden (Prince) have great chemistry, and the tension in their scenes was palpable. Even though you may be familiar with the tale of Cinderella, the storyline here takes a bit of a different path compared to previous versions, and you’re really rooting for them the whole way.
- Music. This film is beautifully scored, and if you stay during the credits there are some fun musical Easter eggs!
- The Dialogue. There were several times during the film I felt like I was watching a cheesy soap opera, or a live action romance novel. Poetic repertoire is wonderful in the right context, but too much and it lessens the impact. It’s quite heavy handed in the beginning of the film, and for me, it made some of the scenes that should’ve been heartbreaking almost laughable.
- Visual Effects. This is actually specific to the Fairy Godmother and when she calls upon some of Cinderella’s critter pals to help man the coach. The execution of their transformation was just plain creepy.
- The Blue Dress. The most surprising miss here was Cinderella’s blue ball gown. With the costumes being such a big highlight throughout the film, and this particular dress being at the pinnacle, I was surprised that it was almost garish. The blue was so harsh in the film, where the color seems to be toned down quite a bit in the promo posters. While a single dress doesn’t really make or break a film, I felt the need to call it out since this particular costume is actually a pretty big part of the story.
Given that the film had a lot to live up to, I felt like Cinderella was able to stand on its own merit. I appreciated that it wasn’t a carbon copy of the 1950 Disney animated feature, yet still paid homage to the classic film. I found Cinderella to be sweet, romantic, and visually stunning, but that being said, I don’t think it’s for everyone (i.e. a family with rambunctious boys). It’s much better suited for hopeless romantics and those with an appreciation for high fashion. I mean, just look at that shoe!