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Elizabeth is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and author. Her first book “Beyond Black and White” is available now. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

Movie Review: A Magical ‘Cinderella’ Moment

Cinderella (2015)

Image Credit: Disney

Once upon a time, little girls everywhere daydreamed of having their Cinderella moment, just like the one from the timeless children’s tale. Today, they can waltz into the theatre and watch as the fairy tale fantasy comes to life in Disney’s new live-action film starring the iconic princess (which reigned at the box office with an opening weekend total of $70 million).

Image Credit: Disney

On the heels of the successes of previous cartoon to real-life adaptations (Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland) based on Disney’s animated classics, Director Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella stays faithful to the 1950 feature, keeping its light and uplifting tone. In an effort to slightly modernize his interpretation, Branagh adds a few dashes of depth and humanity to the story we all know by heart by giving the characters backstories, allowing the audience to empathize with them much more.

Image Credit: Disney

Cinderella begins with an introduction to a young Belle (Eloise Webb, The White Queen), a sweet and imaginative country girl who was  blessed with an idyllic childhood with her loving mother (Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter) and caring merchant father (Ben Chaplin, The Book of Negroes). Her misfortunes begin when her mother is stricken with a fatal illness and continues years later when, as a young woman, her father suddenly passes away during his travels. Orphaned, the only company Ella has left is her stepfamily, who take advantage of her compassionate and gentle nature by ostracizing and enslaving her at every turn. She finds herself trapped in her home under their merciless will due to promises she made to her late parents before they departed, and fights to retain her belief in kindness and courage. One day, things turn around when Ella meets a handsome man in the woods and they immediately fall for each other. Cue in a royal ball, a pumpkin carriage, a glass slipper, and an eventual wedding, and the rest is storybook history.

The cast does an exemplary job at this old-fashioned story fresh and accessible. Breakout star and English rose Lily James (Downton Abbey) portrays Ella with resounding grace, charm, and sincerity. A character as sweet and innocent as Cinderella is at risk of coming across as insipid and uninspired, but James brings enough emotion and inner strength to elevate her performance. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) takes the Prince beyond his dashing good looks deep into a soul conflicted between his responsibilities to his kingdom and his heart, as he wages a battle against marrying for advantage in favour of marrying for love. With the added backstory between Ella and her Prince, the audience can see their bond flourish and understand why these kindred spirits are meant to be together. The always-commanding Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) is phenomenally good as the spiteful, wicked, scheming, and domineering stepmother, Lady Tremaine. Amidst her cruel antics and malicious plotting, there are moments when the cracks in her hard exterior begin to peak through, but are quickly covered up when she tries to bring Ella down again. The two stepsisters Drizella (Sophie McShera, Downton Abbey) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger, The Borgias) are effectively obnoxious and vain in a pitiful way, providing great comic relief. Helena Bonham Carter (Les Miserables) as the quirky Fairy Godmother steals her pivotal scene when she grants Ella her wish for an enchanted evening at the royal family’s extravagant ball.

Image Credit: Disney

Complementing the strength of the story and the acting in Cinderella is the exquisite visual art direction, giving audiences one of the most lush and exquisite cinematic experiences in years. From Ella’s darling childhood estate to the lavish royal palace, the detailed sets truly transports viewers to the fairy tale realm. Costume designer Sandy Powell (Shakespeare in Love, The Young Victoria) provided the gorgeous gowns and immaculate suit-coats, crafted under the vision of a nineteenth-century period film made in the 1940s. Ella is transformed into the elegant belle of the ball in a flowing and sparkling light blue princess dress embellished with crystals and butterfly decals, along with the iconic glistening glass slippers. Seeing the gown in movement during the first dance scene was a delightful dream to observe. Powell’s fine work will surely be recognized next awards season. 

As a family film, Cinderella is full of valuable and timeless lessons applicable to those of all ages. In the face of adversity, Ella finds support from her best friends–the mice (and yes, that includes the beloved Gus Gus), showing that one can count on friendship to help save the day. The tragedies in her life taught her to live and love in the moment, and to treasure the golden memories and hold on to the hope for better days. This adaptation is less about the love story and more a story on how Ella triumphs because she had the courage to be positive, kind, and forgiving (and to believe in magic). She is a dreamer who sees life not as it is, but as it could be.

And that’s a happily ever after to aspire to.

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  1. Movie Review: Cinderella | Elizabeth Rosalyn - March 20, 2015

    […] Continue reading on The Hudsucker… […]

  2. Tunesday: March 2015 | Elizabeth Rosalyn - March 31, 2015

    […] elegance, and magic of the original animation (you can read my thoughts on the film over on The Hudsucker). Lily James (of Downton Abbey fame) portrayed the graceful and kind Ella perfectly, and her […]

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