Cinderella

by Alex Stroup, staff writer
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The original opening with this review started with a line about how we now have our live-action Cinderella, live-action Maleficent, live-action Alice in Wonderland. A live action Beauty and the Beast is already announced. So I'm now just looking forward to the eventual live-action Dumbo and Fantasia 2000.

Then earlier this week, Disney announced that TIm Burton will be directing a live-action Dumbo. Good job getting out in front of the sarcasm Disney!


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Anyway, Cinderella. Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz bring us the latest in Disney's revisionist fairy tales. Revisionism here meaning bringing the stories up to date for modern sensibilities, recognizing that the old fairy tales are often based on world views uncomfortable after another half century of social change.

In a surprise move, Branagh and Weitz bring a twist to the revisionist fairy tale. They don't revise it at all. There's padding where we learn more about the various characters (after all, the 74-minute running time of the 1950 original just won't cut it), but every beat is still there and presented just as sincerely.

Young Ella (Lily Jame) has been orphaned and left in the care (read: chattelship) of her mean-spirited stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and tormented by her vacuous stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger). There are rodent friends and a fairy godmother. A Prince Charming (Richard Madden) and a ball and a midnight timeline. A kingdom-wide search for a specific foot and a happily ever after.


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

It's all there. Sure, you learn how Ella becomes Cinderella and what happens to her parents. Some additional information about the prince and his relationship with dad. There is, however, absolutely no move towards changing the story or showing us how the classic version was a whitewash and the stepmother has a deeply traumatic past explaining her brutality.

The question is, will this work for you? For me, there was hardly a frame through the entire 112 minutes (feeling half an hour longer) where I wasn't bored. Well, that's not quite true. It took about 10 minute to realize that everybody was serious and that the tone wasn't going to change. That Lily James really was going to be affectless throughout the entire movie, barely showing a change of mood from the happiness times to the depth of her abusive enslavement.


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Then every 20 minutes or so, the movie would try a joke or a pratfall—and they were more painful the the earnest stuff. A scene involving a portrait painter literally and figuratively fell flat; the entire fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) scene is played entirely silly but remained chuckle-free.

That isn't to say I liked nothing about the movie. There is a scene where Cinderella and the Prince dance at the ball. The dress she's wearing in that scene is very pretty. That's the thing I liked about Cinderella; and pretty much that's it. The thing that appalled me (more in live action form than in a cartoon for some reason) was the apparent message that you should just accept whatever bad things are done to you because it is important to be nice, and if you suffer long enough, deus ex machina will eventually come and take you away from your problems.


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Time for fair disclosure though. Cinderella was screened for critics at a promotional preview where free tickets are distributed to the public. As the lights came up to end the interminable experience of watching it, I eagerly waited for the shocked silence that would show the audience agreed with me. So the applause was disconcerting.


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

But easily dismissed. They got to see it for free, they're an easy sell. On the way out though, all I hear in the chatter is how good it was. Concerned, it was off to violate a general rule and look at Rotten Tomatoes before the review was written. Surely critics would be on my side. Nope; as of writing, 93% fresh.

I appear to be very much on the outside looking in. So, I hated it. You probably don't agree. We're at an impasse. Bring on the talking, flying elephant.


Disney's Cinderella official US trailer.

 


  • Cinderella is a Walt Disney Pictures release
  • Wide theatrical release on Friday, March 13, 2015
  • Directed by Kenneth Branagh
  • Screenplay by Christ Weitz
  • Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgård
  • Running time: 112 minutes
  • Rated PG for mild thematic elements
  • Alex's rating: 3 out of 10


Cinderella. © 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

 

Comments

  1. By Cyette

    Please don't feel badly about not liking this version of Cinderella. My husband and I can't abide Frozen and continually get castigated for it. Folks get truly angry with us! Your views are valid so you own it!

  2. By Buckimion

    Next thing you know they'll make a live-action version of 101 Dalmatians.

    Wait a minute...

  3. By carolinakid

    I don't plan to see this. For me Disney's 1950 animated classic and Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1957 TV classic is enough Cinderella for me. I am pleasantly surprised that Disney did no updating and PC tweaking or add a hip hop score to make things "fresh". Very surprised indeed.

  4. By Jimbo996

    You don't like the fact that Cinderella is a doormat and she was nice throughout as if nothing is wrong. Could be said about Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, Anna, and many other princesses. There may be some exceptions in the recent adaptions, but everyone had a smile on their face. I found it interesting that Cinderella played it straight. Malificent completely changed the story around and made the villian into protagonist and relegated Sleeping Beauty into a bit part although she had a smile on her face throughout and never showed any discomfort. That's because Malificent is her fairy godmother and her father, the king, is the enemy and had to be killed off.

    Let's just realize that fairy tales are where there are mystics watching over us.

  5. By cheshirecatgirl

    I've just returned from seeing Cinderella, and I quite enjoyed it. I wasn't bored one bit. I thought they expanded the story nicely, especially in regards to the prince and the king. There were comic moments throughout that made me laugh. And there were sad parts and touching parts. Yes, Cinderella's character didn't really change, but she did grow as a person and showed a lot of spirit. She wasn't just a doormat, nor did she smile all the time, although she did smile a great deal! I thought they managed to make her interesting and likable. They managed to give the prince some character. The way they did the animals was fun without being too unrealistic. You know, for a fairy tale. The only thing I would have liked to have seen was a bit more background on the stepmother and what really drove her to treat Cinderella the way she did. They kind of sort of touched on it, but not enough. All together though, I liked the movie. Girls will like it, I think.

  6. By danyoung

    Alex, I am so glad I didn't read your review before watching this film. I really enjoyed it. Part of a movie's success is in how much you like the protagonist and how much you hate the villian, and this movie did an excellent job with both. I don't like it so much when a remake will mess with the original story, and I think Disney and Brannagh did an excellent job of staying true to the story.

    I will never go so far as to say I'm right and someone else is wrong (well, rarely, anyway). But we saw 2 completely different movies, Alex!

  7. By Alex S.

    That's ok. But it is more fun to be the only one who likes a hated movie (I really liked Will Smith's Seven Pounds) than the one hates a liked one (though I remain steadfast that Chicago and Forrest Gump were awful awful awful).

    But it's more that I was caught completely off guard by the split. Usually I can finish a movie and have a rough sense of whether, regardless of what I thought, what the general world will think. Not this time.

  8. By danyoung

    It should come as no surprise that I thought Seven Pounds really sucked, while I liked Chicago and absolutely adore Forrest Gump. Guess we'll never be movie watching buddies . . . . .

  9. By cstephens

    Alex, I didn't hate the film. I liked it because it was well made and had gorgeous sets and costumes, and I really liked Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell, even though I didn't realize at the time that it was Hayley Atwell, but it fell flat for me. I didn't feel anything, not happiness for Cinderella, not hate for the stepmother or the stepsisters. The stepsisters were just silly and annoying with bad taste in clothes. And I'd heard that Cate Blanchett was receiving raves for her performance, so while I'm not that much of a fan of hers, I was expecting a lot. And she wasn't evil enough. In fact, they gave her an out for her evilness, and I actually didn't care for that minor plot point. I did think it was interesting that they did have the one change in the proposal that the stepmother had for Cinderella. I might go see it again because I want to see Hayley Atwell's scenes again. But while I normally like Kenneth Branagh's films, I was really surprised that I found this film utterly unaffecting.

  10. By GusMan

    To me, I also really enjoyed it because of the costumes, the sets and the soundtrack. The story is something that most of us already knew about so it was more about how they told/remade the story rather than the story itself. I mean, the story has been redone many times with different target audiences.

    The stepsisters reminded me more of the stepsisters in A Cinderella Story than anything else. (Or was it Ella Enchanted..... ug, one of the two.)
    And I thought Cate made for a real good stepmother, but agreed with cstephens that she could have been a bit more sinister. I think Anjelica Huston did a slightly better job in Ever After.

    And also agreed that I was stumped on the Hayley Atwell scenes and when I saw the credits it hit me.

    I really try to be subjective about how I feel about a movie afterward. For Cinderella, I think that Disney did a great job and it will be added to the GusMan Omniplex collection.

    (Now, Frozen Fever - that I expected a bit more. Though it was funny and cute.)

  11. By Jimbo996

    I just saw it yesterday night. Frankly, I think we saw two different movies. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fell Cinderella wasn't the emotionless doormat that you described. She was clearly in pain, but she chose to express it in cheer rather than dwell in despair. She was happy when she clearly was, yet when it became too painful, she said so. She did tell her stepmother she was cruel in the confrontation with the glass shoe. She did cry after her dress was destroyed. It was too bad that the cruelty of the stepmother and step sisters were not fully explained. The stepmother said she married for love and he was taken away, yet she quickly remarried. There couldn't have been much time between the death of her first husband (she first appeared at Cinderella's home in mourning attire) and the marriage to her new husband. Perhaps we never know how she developed her cruelty.

    It was a fantasy so everything tied up nicely. We rooted for Cinderella in the end. She couldn't have survived solely on her own. She needed to be rescued and fate allowed it.

    The story did suggest the stepmother's cruelty was misplaced since she could have achieved patronage from the court if Cinderella weds the Prince. She wanted to punish Cinderella more than she was willing to achieve wealth and comfort. This is what make the stepmother evil and undeserving of sympathy.

  12. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    It was too bad that the cruelty of the stepmother and step sisters were not fully explained. The stepmother said she married for love and he was taken away, yet she quickly remarried.

    Didn't she say something along the lines of "I married for love, he was taken from me, so I married for security", or something like that?

  13. By cstephens

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    I just saw it yesterday night. Frankly, I think we saw two different movies.
    Different people have different reactions.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    The stepmother said she married for love and he was taken away, yet she quickly remarried. There couldn't have been much time between the death of her first husband (she first appeared at Cinderella's home in mourning attire) and the marriage to her new husband. Perhaps we never know how she developed her cruelty.

    She said the first time she married, she married for love, and the second time she married, she married for her daughters, presumably, to provide them a stable home.

  14. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by cstephens View Post
    She said the first time she married, she married for love, and the second time she married, she married for her daughters, presumably, to provide them a stable home.

    I already said "The story did suggest the stepmother's cruelty was misplaced since she could have achieved patronage from the court if Cinderella weds the Prince. She wanted to punish Cinderella more than she was willing to achieve wealth and comfort."

    Stability is not the reason for the cruelty. The cruelty was for its own sake.

  15. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Didn't she say something along the lines of "I married for love, he was taken from me, so I married for security", or something like that?

    So she was cruel because she wanted revenge for the death of her first husband. She is secure in knowing Cinderella provides services for free as she squanders any money she has left for herself and her 2 daughters.

    I just recalled the confrontation in the attic where the stepmother said Cinderella's innocence was what enraged her. Maybe that's it.

  16. By cstephens

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    I already said "The story did suggest the stepmother's cruelty was misplaced since she could have achieved patronage from the court if Cinderella weds the Prince. She wanted to punish Cinderella more than she was willing to achieve wealth and comfort."

    Stability is not the reason for the cruelty. The cruelty was for its own sake.
    You asked about her marrying the second time so fast, even though she purported to be in love with her first husband. I was answering the question of why she married so quickly the second time.

    I decided to wrap spoilers on the following, just to be safe.

     
    The cruelty was because she no longer felt the desire nor the need to be kind or even civil, and the implication was that the difficulties that she had endured in life had turned her so. She'd married the first time for love, so presumably, she wasn't as much of a raging nutcase back then. When she then lost the love of her life, she settled for stability for her daughters by marrying Cinderella's father. A widow and two single daughters was a precarious position to be in at the time. When her second husband was then taken away from her, even though it was a husband who clearly still missed and loved his first wife and favored his daughter, she dropped all pretense of civility, aiming her anger and disdain on Cinderella. She knew that Cinderella's father's dying words were about his first wife and Cinderella, with no mention of her. She'd also previously overheard their discussion about his first wife/Cinderella's mother, which is what prompted Lady Tremaine to redecorate the house, to try to erase traces of the woman she couldn't replace.

  17. By danyoung

    Nicely summed up.

  18. By Jimbo996

    That's a good explanation. Too bad it wasn't in the film.

  19. By danyoung

    I don't know - cstephens got all of that from the film. I think it was all in there. You just have to look hard to find it.

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