Other people with whom I am friends and who also have written reviews of this film: I was determined to write my review without any brain-clutter happening from others’ opinions. Not that I disregard your opinions, because I will actually be quite happy to find them out — I just want to present my
Ella (Lily James, Downton Abbey) is a sweet daydreamer of a girl with an idyllic life: a loving mother (Hayley Atwell, Captain America) and devoted father (Ben Chaplin). That is, her life is idyllic till the unthinkable happens and she’s left motherless and her father widowed. Though he still misses his wife, a few years pass and Ella’s father decides to marry the widowed Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings) and take responsibility for her two ditzy daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera, Downton Abbey). While Ella immediately dislikes the three, she, in the goodness of her heart, tries to look past their flaws and love them for her father’s sake. It’s only when he dies that their pettiness and, yes, cruelty is revealed — and she’s forced to wash their clothes, cook their meals, feed their animals, and sleep next to the fire in the kitchens to keep warm, thereby donning her new name “Cinderella,” and slowly losing hope for a happy life.
Warning: I might randomly start gushing in this review. Other warning: I might not gush enough for your taste in some areas.
Oh goodness . . . I really really want to present a somewhat calm review, but sometimes when a film is this good it’s hard to say anything other than, “Oh my gosh wasn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it sweet? Wasn’t it absolutely the best live-action adaptation of Cinderella ever?” Because . . . well, it was. Lily James, who stars in the beloved Downton Abbey as the fun-loving Rose, was the perfect choice to play Cinderella — she has this sort of innate sweetness about her that is just as Cinderella should be. She also looks remarkably like Hayley Atwell, which I suspect is part of the reason they chose Hayley to play her mother. Cate Blanchett was also, like, the only reasonable choice for Lady Tremaine by far — I’ve only seen her as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and while she plays the majestic “good side” lady well, I find her infinitely better as the wicked stepmother. She’s seductive, cunning, beautiful (I mean, that red lipstick . . . and that hair!), and without all the ridiculousness that other live-action stepmothers (yes, I am thinking of Anjelica Huston in Ever After, who really does pale in comparison to Cate Blanchett) tend to showcase. And the prince . . . and the king . . . gah, could it have gotten any better? Whoops, nope, I already told you all that it couldn’t. Basically, Richard Madden played his caring, wistful prince excellently, the king (Derek Jacobi) almost looked like he’d been brought to life from the animations, and they gave the Grand Duke a personality. But more on that later.
I have two arguments with this film. Yes, two, and one of them is hardly viable because it’s based on my unfair expectations. I expected Cinderella
to have a more, well, “adult” — or at least less “silly”/childish I guess — vibe; I expected there to be a little more logic than there turned out to be (although, thank Heaven, spoiler alert
Ella meets the prince before
the ball end of spoiler
) and a little less “girliness” total. I think if I had gone in without
those expectations, I would have liked the movie even more than I do now. My second complaint is that much of the scenery looks CGI’d; in fact, in the scene where Ella’s riding her beautiful dapple gray horse (I. Want. That. Horse.), my mom noticed that the scenery moved too quickly for her horse’s speed! As far as other details go, I randomly noticed that if Lady Tremaine can’t afford servants, then why is Ella’s horse newly shod. . . . But, you know, that was indeed a random detail.
Plot-wise — and I guess this is logic-wise as well — it does a good job of filling in the awful holes the animated story gives you. Ella isn’t just naturally good; her kindness arises from a promise she made to her mother on her deathbed, to “have courage and be kind.” Lady Tremaine is also given a reason for her jealousy of Ella — she sees Ella as a girl who has the purity and kindness she never had, who is happy despite having lost a mother and a father, and Lady Tremaine can’t bear that when her heart is broken from the loss of her first husband. I enjoyed the subtly added intrigue between Lady Tremaine and the Grand Duke — as I said, they gave the Grand Duke a personality; rather than being buffoonish, he plays a much larger, more realistic role in running the kingdom smoothly, even if he sometimes leads that role immorally.
Altogether, I really liked this movie. The costuming was beautiful (HER DRESS, people) and so were the settings, even if they did look overdone sometimes. I thought the casting was spot-on in almost everybody’s case and it’s definitely a film I’d love to have on DVD (I don’t say that often, mind you — I don’t watch many movies anymore and renting them is cheaper than buying them since I watch so few of them).
Did you go see it? What were your thoughts?