“Where there is kindness there is goodness…and where there is goodness there is magic.”
I have heard of the many and varied versions of the classic fairy tale of Cinderella.
Truthfully, it was never my favourite Disney film when I was a child. Thus, I did not rush to watch any of the others that have been released since.
I guess I always thought the story to be a bit lacking in any real spark of interest to me.
I was a Sleeping Beauty girl, through and through.
I don’t know, then, why this latest retelling of Cinderella caught my attention the way that it did.
Actually, I have a hunch and it wasn’t the most solid reason to assume I’d like this new live-action production, directed by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh.
He is a multi-talented man and I felt he would pick the best actors to fill the roles and would present the story in a new and fresh way, just enough that I might come to love the story and see it in a whole new light.
As with all movie reviews I must say here that possible spoilers lay ahead. I would love for you to keep reading, if you can accept those terms.
Why should you see this film?
**There’s the fact that not one, but two of the actors in this film can be seen on the beloved nighttime soap Downton Abbey.
**There’s the fact that Kenneth cast the wildly talented Cate Blanchett (most notably of Lord of the Rings and Elfin fame to me) to play the wicked step-mother.
**There’s the fact that the special effects and costumes were/are supposed to be phenomenal.
Everybody loves the story of Cinderella. As I have stated above, me not so much, but I was soon turned around on the matter, a fair bit at least.
The first good sign was the fact that I went to see this film with DS (descriptive service) and it worked. I had the worst luck with that lately, but as happy as I was when I first heard that voice coming through my wireless headphones, that is not what sealed the deal for me.
It was not one of those times when the basic storyline was taken and changed around, to fit a certain theme or time period.
(Ella Enchanted or Ever After.)
This film sticks extremely close to the well-known story, loved by so many generations.
These most recent of retellings often give background, such as with my favourite Maleficent, and this particular Cinderella was no different.
She is a young woman who suffers a lot of loss, very early on, but she is clearly loved by her parents and has been taught some really really excellent lessons and values from both of them.
It’s hard for any child when a step-parent and step-siblings are introduced into the picture. Cinderella is no exception there, but she attempts, at least, to make the best of her circumstances.
When her father is no longer there to protect her, her home life becomes unbearable, if not for the mice who become her friends.
Banished to the attic and made to wait on her remaining horrible step-family hand-and-foot would be dreadful without the strength her parents instilled in her and her creature companions.
Now I was unaware enough not to have realized, until watching this time, that Cinderella got her name not by any accident.
There’s a really well-done scene where Ella is caught having slept by the fire to keep warm. Her step-sisters call her Cinder-Ella, after cinders from the hearth.
After suffering an extended period of torment and ridicule from the only “family” she’s got left, she retreats into the forrest, on a horse, to get away for a little while.
She comes across a stranger in the woods, teaches him about the value and respect for all living things, and an instant connection is formed between her and this mysterious Kit the so-called Apprentice.
She leaves a lasting impression. They both disguise their true identities, for different reasons.
Will they ever meet again? Of course they will.
There are procedures to follow as a prince when searching for one’s future bride, but Kit isn’t about to let that get in the way, stop him from seeing the captivating girl on the horse, from the woods again.
A royal ball is announced and Ella’s hopes are soon dashed, when her step-mother forbids her from going and posing any competition for her own two daughters, in the hopes that one of them might be chosen by a prince, for a life of luxury and wealth.
All this time, an all-knowing narrator has been explaining what we’ve been watching on screen and I like this element, also used in last year’s Maleficent.
I loved the British feel of this film and it’s splendid acting from all the cast.
I must say that my favourite of them all is Helena Bonham Carter, who is both narrator and Fairy Godmother. She brings a feeling of magic and wonder to this film that I couldn’t get enough of.
After myself only seeing her as the supremely evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series of films, it was sweet to see her as the ultimate embodiment of goodness and generosity here.
The continual theme throughout this movie is what Ella’s mother taught her before she died and Ella never stops honouring her mother’s memory by finding the good in people and making the best of her bad situations.
The Fairy Godmother appears on the scene, just as Ella is at her lowest point, believing the ball is going on somewhere and she is missing her one chance for true love.
Fairy Godmother pops up and brings her own sprinkling of magic by waving her signature magic wand.
A pumpkin becomes a coach. Mice, a goose, and two lizards are transformed into the driver and horses. Ella’s mother’s dress, now in tatters but of which means so much to her, is altered into the most beautiful gown in all the land.
Of course she is presented with her famous glass slippers (almost as famous as the ruby ones from another famous tale) and off she goes, left with a warning to return by the stroke of midnight when the spell will be broken.
These elements of the story are at the core of what Cinderella is supposed to be about.
I’m simply putting it out there that Helena is the best thing about this film. She’s charming and witty and the mother figure Ella so badly missed and needs.
She is the kindness that shows up at just the right moment. This, going to show Ella that such kindnesses do still exist.
Of course I missed out on the stunning visual effects of orange vegetables and animals turned into royal transportation. I don’t see the visual beauty of the costumes.
And yet, I still lapped up every last feeling of magic and goodness that I could find.
The prince resists all advances from the many royal females and dolled-up girls, including wicked step-sister number one and number two, never losing hope that his dream girl would show herself.
They present her, in style, just her alone making her grand entrance into the ballroom.
Prince Kit and and Ella have their long awaited first dance. Jealousy boils up between all the other girls. Of course the step-sisters and mother have no idea who this mystery usurper is, not as of yet.
The prince and Ella sneak away and have a special evening, before the clock chimes twelve and she rushes off, losing one of her glass slippers in the process.
I followed along with the plot and story arc of course, but I knew what to expect with both. Any predictability, the bore I’ve thought this tale to be in the past, and all feelings of the poor damsel in distress and having to always wait to be rescued by a man were pushed to the back of my mind while watching.
It was the wonderful casting of characters and the themes of jealousy, cruelty, resentment, all balanced out by Ella’s never-ending compassion that drew me in.
Kenneth takes his time to present all of this and I didn’t mind. I followed along, loving the intermittent narration and the morality at the heart of the tale.
Things like status don’t matter. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
These are the truths at the centre of Cinderella, in the year 2015.
This was no Brothers Grimm ending, bloody and hacked off heels or gouged out eyes, in spite of the horrible way Cinderella is treated for most of the story.
Without spoiling the ending (come on though because you should already know this) and without giving away a whole lot more unnecessary details, I leave off my review right here.
Happy endings and all that jazz. It was heart warming to see that this is a film for all ages.
I must admit that at times I grew slightly irritated by the amount of people in the theatre, both children and adults, making noise and filling up the seats.
It was March Break after all. What was I expecting?
There are so many lessons for all ages to be found in this film. The themes of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I readily admit.
The star of this film, I will say again was not Cinderella herself (Lily James), at least not in my humble view. She was good and all, the perfect essence of all that is good and kind.
It’s the Fairy Godmother who steals the show and none of it would have been possible without her.
If I had to say, I would have to rate this film as being Four Stars.
In spite of an overly sappy line here or there, I was pleasantly surprised. Even as I entered the theatre with hope that I might just might like this version more than any other that has come before it, I wasn’t so sure at first.
Go see it for Helena’s performance alone, along with the other excellent actors that make up the other roles as simply an added bonus.
Go see it if you enjoy visual effects, or so I hear.
Go see a classic story, retold by a genius like Branagh and let the magic, enchantment, and spells draw you in and hold you there for a little while at least, even if only until the clock strikes midnight and the spell is broken.