Courage, Kindness, Not Just a Pretty Face

Let’s be honest, although Disney’s 1950 animated feature Cinderella is considered a ‘classic’ by today’s standards, there isn’t much about the characters or story that modern audiences would celebrate. Cinderella is a feckless dreamer who sings through her sorrows until she gets a lucky reprieve one night and in twist of fate meets a handsome prince who whisks her away from her sordid life. Not really the kind of life lesson most would want to instill in their post-Frozen Anna & Elsa loving children. So the challenge of adapting this very dated fairytale required some clever crafting and repositioning of largely archaic tropes.

Thankfully, Kenneth Branagh, wielding a script by Chris Weitz, brings his wealth of experience developing nuanced Shakespearean characters to this Cinderella. His live-action retelling remains surprisingly faithful to the original story and tone, but injects just enough character development that the cast feels fresh and interesting while remaining reminiscent of their 2D counterparts.

Cinderella54de9ba3797c3The film begins with a considerable amount of backstory for Ella (Lily James) whose idyllic life with her mother and father provide great contrast to the one she is soon fated. Just before her birth mother dies, Ella is left with the parting sentiment to “Have Courage and Be Kind,” a life motto of sorts which guides her and reminds her to be sympathetic to the hardships and circumstances of those around her.

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As the story goes, her father remarries the ever-so-callous Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) who arrives with two silly daughters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) and a devilish cat. When Ella’s father passes away, gone with him are the families finances and soon Ella is thrust into a role of servitude. She takes it in stride, with only brief lapses in recognizing her horrible plight. One such moment is when her terrible stepsisters give her the nickname “Cinderella” after appearing for supper covered in fireplace soot. Clever. Ella runs off into the woods along with her feelings where she happens to cross paths with a handsome prince (Richard Madden). With a newfound glimmer of hope, Cinderella returns home and fashions a dress for herself so that she may go to the ball, only to have that dream -literally- torn away from her.

Cinderella54de9babe8f06At this point in the story, the arrival of the Fairy Godmother (Helena Boneham Carter) comes as a very welcomed relief, and a key notion in making this film work. Branagh manages to subtly build enough despair that when Cinderella finally gets her stunning new dress for the ball (courtesy of Sandy Powell) its a genuine moment of triumph. Cinderella is well equipped with enough will and determination for the remainder of the film that when she gets her prince and happy ending, it feels deserved instead of simply granted by the flick of a wand.

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With brilliant performance from the entire cast, each with their own set of problems and obstacles, the film has depth and feels full of real people. Cate Blanchett is particularly stunning as Lady Tremaine who is no longer just an insular and cold-hearted woman, but a remorseless survivor with a flair for the dramatic. In addition, Lily James in the title roles seems as though she’s been perfectly plucked out of the pages of a fairytale with her endearing beauty, innocence, and grace. In the end, this Cinderella will undoubtedly reignite the magical feeling that Walt Disney conjured so many years ago with Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

42 thoughts on “Courage, Kindness, Not Just a Pretty Face”

  1. As a Disney Bride I have a vested interest in Cinderella. I cannot wait to see the film, I love watching the animated movie so much.

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  2. I’m waiting on the DVD release of this! I know I have a long way to go but we never make it to the movies with our toddler!

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  3. I have been waiting for this movie for quite some time ever since it was publicized in my social networks. I am a fan of Kenneth Branagh’s works too! Thank you for your informative and very well written review. I really enjoyed reading it! :)

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  4. This movie is such a classic. I am so glad that it has been remade to be enjoyed by girls. Frozen has made almost every other Disney movie obsolete. It’s crazy

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  5. I’ve often said exactly the same thing about the classic version of Cinderella. I’m so glad there’s now an updated, more positive version.

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  6. Cinderella is such a classic story that never fails to amaze me. I love all the characters which starred in the movie.

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  7. We went to see this movie over the weekend. I think I was more excited than my husband and kiddo. Cinderella was my childhood favorite and then we didn’t have many princesses to pick from. I think this movie was very tastefully done and I really enjoyed it.

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  8. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one. I know my girls want to as well, so it may be a great flick for us to see together. I’ve seen a lot of hype for it so I hope it’s great!

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  9. I’ve been debating going to see Cinderella, and after your post I definitely must see it. The movie sounds so beautiful. Plus, I love Helena Bonham Carter so much. I definitely will be checking this one out.

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  10. I’m still not sure I want to see this. I’m just so in love with the original…i’m working on it, giving this movie a chance

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  11. Our family hasn’t seen this movie yet but hopefully we will. Sounds like a really good movie we would enjoy.

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  12. I want to see this movie! In all of the stills that I’ve seen, I have yet to see Cate Blanchett…I really like her as an actress. I also like that Helena Boneham Carter is cast as the Fairy Godmother.

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  13. I’ve been looking forward to watching this movie since I saw the first announcement trailer for it. I love the acting from Helena Boneham Carter and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role for the fairy godmother. I think I like her casting choice more than actual Cinderella.

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  14. Hey, Kean – I do think the 1950’s Cinderella was for little kids who do dream and could identify (especially girls) – It would seem the new one will be more to my liking now! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  15. Cinderella was my favorite cartoon character when I was a little girl and I watched it on Betamax over and over and over again. I would certainly watch this film. I know I will enjoy it even though I am a little girl no more. :)

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  16. I cannot wait to see this movie! I’m excited to see the ballroom scene and of course some bippty boppity boo!

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  17. This is such a classic story, I’m so worried to see this because I have the animate movie so vivid in my mind!

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  18. I can’t wait to go see this movie!! I was supposed to go see it opening day with my sister but my baby niece got sick so we couldn’t go. Booooo!

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  19. I need to make time to see this movie this week. Ever since I found out Robb Stark was in it, I’ve been interested.

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  20. My daughter has been waiting for this movie to be available in our local theater. I would love to watch it too. I think this movie has a lot of lessons that kids can learn.

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  21. Of the classic Disney movie set, Cinderella was never one of my favorites. But, I want to see this live action version for the Frozen Fever short.

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  22. I’ve always loved the original Cinderella. Looking forward to seeing the new (and improved) movie. Can hardly wait to see the contrast from then and now.

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  23. This film has so many great actors in it, I can’t imagine it not being a great one! Great review and synopsis of the movie!

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  24. ahhh I wanna see this movie so bad!!! Now only if I had some real life friends where I live to go with me hehe ;-) maybe I can convince hubby to go one of these days!

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  25. I want to see the new Cinderella. I’m not sure if my kids would like it or not though. They are still into cartoons.

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  26. I think my favorite part of the Cinderella story is they sheer amount of obstacles she had in her path. She faced them and overcame them with such grace. It’s a great lesson for all of us.

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  27. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie although I’ll still always love the original Cinderella movie. Thanks for your review, I’ll have to see how well we like it when we go see it. I’m hoping the kids will be happy with it.

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  28. I am sure I will end up seeing this at some point, most likely when it comes to Netflix. I hear good things :)

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