I’m a little confused as to why I crave a movie I’ve already seen a thousand times. Brainwash marketing, that’s why. “Come see this classic tale that’s been remade in every way possible save for an exact replica! We promise pretty people in fancy clothes, but in every other way it’s an exact replica!” Well, I’m sold.
You know the story. Ella (Lily James) loses her doting father and loving mother at a young age. Her life of skipping through gardens and talking to mice becomes a life of involuntarily skipping through gardens and talking to mice when her evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett) takes over the household. Being shunned to the attic doesn’t seem so bad, especially since it offers a quiet place away from her idiotic stepsisters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). Except, this private tower room is only accessible via a million and one steps. No wonder the poor girl prefers sleep in the basement next to the fireplace and under the cinders. One day, to escape her miserable life, Ella rides off into the woods (bareback – in a dress) and runs into the charming Prince Kit (Richard Madden). After a dizzying scene of unnecessarily circling each other on horseback, these young romantics fall hopelessly in love, despite knowing absolutely nothing about each other.
It’s a fairy tale. Deal with it. The costumes are phenomenal, with hoop-skirts, rich satins, and rhinestones up the wazoo. The dresses are of such a size that any physical contact is impossible. Every girl at the ball is clearly peacocking to try and draw Kit’s attention. When he finally asks Ella to dance what he actually means is, “I apologize in advance for faceplanting into the tulle beast that has devoured your lower half.” When they discover that dancing won’t be possible without certain injury or death, Kit and Ella disappear into the garden – Kit’s secret garden. It’s a fairy tale, deal with it.
Under no circumstances should this movie be a reflection of everyday life. It may take five seconds to turn a lizard into a footman, but it takes a sparkly, swirly, five minutes to put Ella in a magical dress. There’s a glitter-shower, Ella spins, tulle swirls about, she swishes back and forth, more sparkles, she looks up at the sky in polite ecstasy, butterflies appear and land on her neckline, diamonds rain down from above, and finally, after all that effort, we have a dress that looks nothing like what she asked for.
To be a legitimate re-make, Cinderella must follow the original story line. And so it does. Running in glass shoes isn’t the bloody mess you’d expect it to be, and Kit falls for a girl with size 3 feet. Apparently, all it takes to win a prince in Ella’s world is the biggest dress in the room, a stick-thin waistline, confidence in phrases like, “But I’m only a girl,” and boob glitter. When she’s not wooing the Prince with smiles and frailty, Ella is running and crying in as many different spots around the house as possible – because the first two or three corners weren’t comfortable enough for bawling her eyes out.
Cate Blanchett is a miracle-worker with the role of Wicked Stepmother. She even does the speak-from-the-half-shadows thing. She is magnificently wicked and I love to hate her. She is one of the little features which make this movie a good waste of time. The prince is charming (like Into the Woods only not ironically), the sets and costumes are glorious, and the writers have done their best to humanize these fairy tale characters by adding an absurd amount of family deaths. I half expected it to go the Grimm Brothers way with the sisters chopping off their toes to fit into the slipper. There is so much drama in Cinderella it weeps with lonely children forgotten on their birthdays with nothing to eat but mouldy bread they found in the gutter. Truly. It’s a good movie to take your kids to see, just don’t give in to the inevitable requests for glitter makeovers in days to come. Cinderella is a 4/10.