**Do not forget, before CINDERELLA there is a short for FROZEN called “Frozen Fever”, featuring a new song! The short is super cute and features all of the same voices from the film. You will not be disappointed!**
It is not easy to make a CINDERELLA movie stand out. After all, there have been so many big and small screen adaptations of this fairytale classic. From the superb re-imagining of the rags-to-riches story in EVER AFTER, to the different musical versions (like the made-for-TV movie starring Brandy and Whitney Houston), Cinderella has certainly had her moment in the spotlight. That is why I was so happily surprised when Disney’s latest live-action adaptation of CINDERELLA, directed by Kenneth Branagh, turned out to be really, really good. From the topsy-turvy directorial style to the BRILLIANT costumes and production design, CINDERELLA did its namesake justice and showed that Disney doesn’t have to do a complete retelling of a story to make a great movie; delving deeper into an already well-known story can be just as entertaining.
Because I don’t think I need to rehash the story of Cinderella (played by Lily James), I will instead tell you a few things that are different from the story we know so well. What I especially liked about this version of CINDERELLA was that the story wasn’t changed as much as it was expanded on. Most importantly, Lady Tremaine the “evil stepmother”, who is magnificently played by Cate Blanchett, is given a bit more of a character arc and back-story than what we usually see from this character. Yes, she is evil and remains evil, this isn’t a MALEFICENT-esque change that will turn her good in the end. But in a fantastic monologue that begins with the famous “once upon a time” line, we see the circumstances that brought her to this dark place. Another question I have always had, that was finally answered, is why Cinderella stayed in an abusive household for so long – she felt a duty to her mother’s memory and wanted to maintain the legacy of her family home.
The movie also gave a different version of Cinderella and Prince Charming’s (or in this case Prince Kit) meet-cute. Instead of meeting at the ball, when Cinderella, or “Ella”, is all gussied up, this version takes a more EVER AFTER approach and has the two meet when Cinderella is still in her “ratty” (except not really) dress. Only in this story, Ella doesn’t know her crush is actually the Prince; she just knows him as Kit (Richard Madden). Of course, it’s love at first sight and Kit decides she, a commoner, is the one he really wants to marry. To hell with the fact that his father is dying and wants his future heir to marry for political purposes, Kit is in it for love! So, he convinces his dad to extend invitations to the potential suitor ball to every eligible maiden, even the lowly peasants. Hopefully this will help him see Ella again. As we know, thanks to a delightful fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), mice, and some newly added geese and lizards, Ella is able to make a grand entrance at the ball. The rest is fairytale history.
What I found the most exciting about this CINDERELLA was its SPECTACULAR costume and production design. This is one of the best-dressed movies I have ever seen. And that kind of attention to detail adds so much to the atmosphere of the film. Cate Blanchett was phenomenal as Lady Tremaine, giving extreme amounts of shade and sass (my favorite thing in a character). But what really added to her performance were her magnificent, dramatic costumes. Cinderella’s transformation from “rags” to the blue ball gown we all know and love was another highlight of the film. The way it twirled during her dance with the Prince had me in awe of the extravagant visuals. Basically what I am saying is if there were ever a movie that would give MARIE ANTOINETTE a run for its money in the costume department, it is this one.
Like its namesake, CINDERELLA is sincere, entertaining, and utterly delightful. Lily James beautifully portrays the innocence and kind nature of Cinderella, while on the other end of the spectrum, Cate Blanchett (unsurprisingly) plays a good villain. The last words Cinderella says to her evil stepmother regarding forgiveness are a direct kick in the gut, but don’t expect me to be as forgiving if you don’t see this movie on opening weekend. It really is that good.
My Review: A-