Thursday, March 19, 2015



Magical, romantic, sparkling, magnificent. This is how a Disney Fairytale is done! Forget trying to mix fairytales with the cynicism and depravity commonly known as "reality" -- here, old fashioned, sweeping romance and true love wins the day. But neither does this film skimp on the lessons that can be applied to reality once the last echoes of "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" fades away with the credits.

The look of this movie took my breath away.

Kenneth Branagh was the absolute perfect choice to direct a live-action adaptation of this classic Disney tale. He is no stranger to the poetry of old-timey language, having mastered Shakespeare a time or two, and he has a visual style that isn't afraid to go all-out, which comes in handy when you want to exploit every magical second out of a raggedy dress turning into the most beautiful ballgown you've ever wished to wear.

He kept the camera moving -- to every imaginable angle -- and created some amazing and striking shots, and even entire scenes. Like, as Ella runs from the ball, the camera tracking her tilts to a sharp angle as it moves (a little nod to his Thor style, perhaps?). And as the prince curls up on the bed with his dying father, the shot slowly moving up and away perfectly enhances the sweet, sad moment. Or in the forest, when our heroine and hero first meet, verbally sparring as their horses turn circles around each other. My absolute favorite though, has to be as Ella and Kit dance, with the camera moving around them as they swept about and spun that huge skirt. It was almost dizzying, like we were dancing with them.

I want to know what it's like to swish this skirt.

Being a remake, and so exactly as it was, it could have been easy to do the recreation perfectly technically-wise, but miss out on the less physical, more important things. Not the case here; this telling has more heart than the classic animation it copies, plus, I feel bold enough to say, every single other Cinderella telling out there put together. When you feel the threat of tears before even the first 5 minutes have gone by, you know you're watching something with a big heart.

Now I must mention the characters and players. Hayley Atwell as Ella's lovely mother goes first, because it was she who threatened to make me cry at her heartbreaking scene with a young Ella after she becomes fatally ill. Hayley naturally shows every quality of strength, charm, grace, and kindness that her character passes on to her daughter.

Like mother like daughter, right? Unless it's step-mother and step-daughter.

Lily James then picks up every one of those traits with charisma and passion. She is the ideal Cinderella. It's easy for the character to be portrayed as mousey, and in this day, it's easy to go too far opposite, making her a tom-boy feminist instead of feminine. But Lily is perfection -- her Ella is not mousey, but kind and gentle, and she doesn't act like a man, but an elegant woman, strong and brave in character. Joyful in her trails and thankful in her fortunes. And of course, she is beautiful, and most importantly, gives a lovely, sincere performance.

Opposite her, is Richard Madden as the prince Kit. Besides being the perfect picture of a Prince Charming with his curly hair and blue eyes, I was very pleased to see his character develop into someone deeper than a guy who wants to dance with the prettiest girl at the ball. In the forest we see that he has integrity, kindness, and compassion. In scenes with his father we see affection, bravery and nobility. And everywhere in between he is wise and thoughtful, a gentleman, a faithful friend, a strong leader -- in short, the ideal match for our beloved Cinderella.

I told you -- he is the very model of a modern major Disney Prince!

Helena Bonham Carter's appearance as Ella's Fairy Godmother is almost no more than a cameo, but with the time she has she is quirky and amusing. The ugly step-sisters are Anastasia and Drisella, played by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera, who are both amusingly playing against type with their ridiculousness and silliness, to great result. They are funny, annoying, evil, and even pitiable as the story demands.

Ever lovely and elegant, the great Cate Blanchett graces us with fashionable and villainous performance as Ella's Wicked Stepmother. Wicked she really is -- laughing at and putting down Ella at every turn -- but in an interesting turn of events, we understand her blatant hatred of her step-daughter. Understand, but never condone. And that is how a good villain is done.

Loved the mother's sense of style, but the daughters'.... yikes.

I expected this movie to be old-fashioned in its romance and storytelling, but I never hoped to see old-fashioned morality such as forgiving your enemies. And yet, at the end of the movie, Ella forgives her step-mother of her cruelty, an act that encompassed the fullest meaning of the film's theme; to have courage, and be kind. It was a theme often not subtle in its delivery, but every time sincere in its truth.

This little fairytale went all out, with every bit of magic it could muster, and became something magical and beautiful to see -- full of romance and sparkles and sweeping colors -- but also full of beauty and magic of a different, much more meaningful kind -- seemingly ordinary things becoming extraordinary, good triumphing against evil, and dreams coming true for the steadfast servant girl and the noble prince alike.

Their romance and courtship happened quickly, but we are left with no doubt of their love being of the truest sort.

Our heroes' sweet reunion at the shoe-fitting, where they promise to take each other as they are, is a perfect complement for the final scene, where Kit calls Ella "his Queen," and Ella calls her King "her Kit." I'm not sure if it was intentional, but either way it is a beautiful thought of how they see each other -- as equals. Kit, the King sees a beautiful queen who can rule righteously with him, and Ella, a poor maid, sees a man, who will love and care for her. I don't think either will be disappointed.

It's never said in so many words, but I know this is true:

They lived happily ever after.



  1. Wonderful thoughts/review, Sarah! I agree. Everything about this film - director, styles, cast, was really beautiful and perfect. Not also is this visually stunning (a plus in and of itself), it was refreshing to see the lessons that the writer's pulled out of a fairytale. Goes to show one, we can learn something from more than just realistic, "hard-hitting" stories. :)

    Ps; I do too - I want to know what it's like to swish this skirt.

    1. Thank you Rissi! I'm glad we agree completely on this one! Yes, and the lesson had such a beautiful simplistic truth to it, and was so straightforward. I was so impressed by it. And then the rest of the movie was a wonderful and gorgeous, but not just a bunch of fluff. :) I want to see it again now!

      Wearing that skirt is now one of my life goals. ;)

  2. I'm not enthusiastic about Cinderella but I will give it a watch here at home; I'm glad to hear from you that it's not a let down like Maleficent was.


    1. It certainly wasn't a letdown! It was basically the animation, (which was a childhood favorite) but more grown-up with more depth and heart. I hope you enjoy it too! :)

  3. I loved this movie! The casting was done perfectly and the scenes were amazing...especially how the camera moved in different ways:) I loved Ella's ball gorgeous! I also liked how the song was Lavender Blue and she wore a blue dress:) Oh. My. Word. I had misty eyes when the prince curled up with his father*tears*:)

    1. Me too. :D I still can't get over how much this movie exceeded my expectations and just amazed me with its beauty and heart. I have never seen a dress skirt so big! I want to try it on! Oh, I didn't catch that, that is neat! Yeah, that scene was almost unbearably adorable. :)