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So, Disney and their live-action remakes of their animated classics…
Ever since they became popular, I’ve been staunchly against these remakes and thought that the first two of these films, Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, were just horrible! Now, comes the third in the series, Cinderella, and they say third time’s a charm! Is this one any good? Will it change my views on these live-action Disney remakes? Let’s find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens to our protagonist when she’s a young girl,
Cinderella Ella. She lives in a beautiful house with her parents, played by Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell. They have a wondrous life taking care of the farm animals, believing in magic, and just overall having a happy and positive outlook on life.
But, like all stories that seem to go well, tragedy soon strikes with the sudden illness and death of Ella’s mother.
Ella and her father are heartbroken over this, but Ella remembers her mother’s advice to always have courage and be kind. Ella applies this mantra throughout the rest of her life which gives her and her father some happiness for years to come.
When Ella is now a young woman (played by Lily James), her father impresses upon her an idea that he has. He’s been seeking some companionship/happiness and is interested in marrying the widow of one of his friends, a certain Lady Tremaine. Ella wants her father to be happy and encourages him to go through with the marriage.
It’s not long before her father returns with Lady Tremaine, played by Cate Blanchett, and her daughters, Anastasia and Drisella, played by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera, respectively.
We see at once that Lady Tremaine is a woman whose husband’s death has definitely affected her. As a result of her grief, she’s developed a sort of…shall we say, harshness? A certain level of…coldness? A feeling that she is so much better than Ella and her father? And it’s not just Lady Tremaine who displays such negative judgments; her daughters are no better.
Despite their trying nature, Ella does her best to do all she can for her stepmother and stepsisters. Her father soon leaves on a business trip, so Ella has plenty of time to get more acquainted with her stepmother and stepsisters whereas Lady Tremaine wastes no time in laying her law down in the house.
She sort of forcibly convinces Ella that she should go live in the attic and give up her bedroom for her stepsisters. She persuades Ella to take much of the house’s old memorabilia that belonged to her late mother up in the attic with her. She insists that Ella shouldn’t call her “Stepmother”, but “Madam”. She gets Ella to take care of anything that needs fixing or tending to. Basically, Lady Tremaine soon becomes the mistress of the house and Ella becomes a mere servant.
It’s not long before we hear the news of the death of Ella’s father. As you can imagine, this hits Ella very hard and makes her extremely grief-stricken. Lady Tremaine, on the other hand, is also a bit shocked at losing a second husband, but is more worried about the financial upkeep of the house. As a result, she fires all the servants in the house and makes Ella the sole servant to take care of the house’s upkeep and all her and her daughters’ needs.
It’s not long before Ella’s situation causes her to get all dirty and earn the derogatory name of Cinder-Ella. All of these happenings just pushes Cinderella (whom I’ll now refer to as such) too far and she decides to run away. While entering the forest on horseback, she runs into the Prince, played by Richard Madden. The only thing is Cinderella doesn’t recognize the Prince, so the Prince doesn’t bother telling her. He introduces himself as Kit and says he’s a sort of apprentice at the castle learning to take over his father’s job.
Cinderella is excited to meet Kit and the two hit it off really well. It’s through their talks that Cinderella is reminded of her mother’s words of being kind and having courage. She makes a decision to return back to the house and to her stepmother and stepsisters.
Meanwhile, the Prince heads back to the castle and is convinced that he wants to marry Cinderella. His father, the King, played by Derek Jacobi, wants his son to marry a princess instead of a common girl. They find a middle ground by deciding to host a ball wherein all the maidens in the realm can attend and the Prince will choose who he wants to marry. The Prince does this so that he can secretly see Cinderella (whose name he still doesn’t know) again and the King gets to have his desire of royal maidens attending the ball.
And although it has nothing to do with anything, I just gotta mention what was my absolute favorite part of the movie, something that I didn’t expect to see at all: CAMEO APPEARANCE BY ROB BRYDON!!!!
If you’re an Anglophile like myself, you’re quite familiar with the Welsh comedian and his appearances on many British panel shows.
Back to the story, when Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters hear about the ball, they, of course, become immediately interested. The stepsisters would love to marry the Prince and Lady Tremaine sees this marriage as a way to improve their financial situation.
Cinderella wants to attend as well, so that she can see Kit, but Lady Tremaine would rather die that see Cinderella attend. So, she gives Cinderella a ton of work to do and tells her that if she completes it in time for the ball, she can go. Fortunately, Cinderella DOES complete the work in time for the ball, but Lady Tremaine straight out tells her to stay home!
This breaks Cinderella’s heart and she just breaks down crying. After her stepmother and stepsisters have left for the ball, a beggar woman comes upon Cinderella and asks her for some milk. Despite her sorrows, Cinderella’s kindness reigns supreme and she gives the woman milk. The woman then transforms into a fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter.
The Fairy Godmother rewards Cinderella for her deeds and decides to send her to the ball via the same format we all know too well: Cinderella gets a beautiful dress and glass slippers, pumpkin turns into a coach, animals turn into coachmen, midnight curfew, etc.
At the ball, everyone’s having a glorious time except for the Prince who’s still looking out for Cinderella. Once Cinderella arrives at the ball, all yes are upon her, especially Kit’s who she soon discovers is the Prince. The two dance and spend quality time together, but midnight soon approaches. Cinderella explains that she has to leave and runs out of the palace accidentally leaving a glass slipper behind. The Prince is upset about this because he STILL hasn’t learned her name! I mean, what the heck have you two been talking about all this time?!
Once the King finds out what has happened and that his son truly wants to marry Cinderella, he sends out his Captain and Grand Duke, played by Nonso Anozie and Stellan Skarsgård, respectively, to go to every maiden in the realm to try on the glass slipper. If it fits, they’ll soon find their Cinderella!
When the stepmother and stepsisters reach home miserably and explain to Cinderella how the Prince fell in love with some strange woman, Lady Tremaine gets suspicious at Cinderella’s odd joyfulness. She goes into the attic and soon discovers the other glass slipper and realizes that Cinderella was the mysterious woman at the ball.
She surreptitiously meets with the Grand Duke and they make a plan. The Grand Duke doesn’t want the Prince to marry a commoner and wanted to force him to marry a particular Princess. Lady Tremaine promises to keep this knowledge to herself and in return, the Grand Duke won’t have to worry about Cinderella showing up and messing up his plans.
Honestly, this “treacherous Grand Duke” plot point is quite unnecessary as it’s not long before the Grand Duke and the Captain reach the Tremaine house. They try the shoe on Anastasia and Drisella to no success and are just about to leave when they hear a voice from the attic. The Grand Duke knows it’s Cinderella and tries to get the Captain to disregard what he hears and just leave quickly. But, the Captain obeys the King’s words and says that “every maiden” means “every maiden”. He demands that Cinderella come down and try on the shoe, much to Lady Tremaine’s chagrin.
Of course, the shoe fits and she and the Prince are soon wedded. The Grand Duke, Lady Tremaine, and her daughters are exiled from the kingdom. And everyone lives happily ever after!
And that was Cinderella. As far as these live-action remakes go, this honestly was not a bad one. It’s not really a favorite of mine and I don’t see myself watching this movie many more times throughout my life unless I had to, but it’s SOOOOOO much better than that piece of trash, Maleficent!
The acting was great with Cate Blanchett giving the strongest performance in the film. The story was mostly great. Like I said, the “treacherous Grand Duke” plot was unnecessary and I feel that the movie sort of made Cinderella a character who had no respect for her stepmother. It seems that Cinderella only treated Lady Tremaine nicely because of her familial house as well as her mother’s advice. But, the Cinderella we know truly loved and respected her stepmother, no matter how badly she was treating her. But, neither point is a biggie!
The best thing of all was the overall cinematography and look of the film!
I think what saved this film mostly was having Kenneth Branagh as its director!
But that’s not to say that because of my positive review of this film that I condone these live-action remakes of Disney! I’ve never been against them because I thought they would be bad; I’ve been against them just on the principle of remaking these animated classics!
Yes, this film might be good and yes, I’m really looking forward to next year’s The Jungle Book, but I’d be the first one to sign an amendment to the Constitution banning further Disney live-action remakes of their animated films. I know many of you would join me in that as well!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 30/35 = 85.71% (B) !
The next review will be posted on November 9th.