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He Said, She Said Review Site
Cinderella

Cinderella

What She said:

She

When I was a wee one, I used to watch the old Disney animated classic, Cinderella, over and over until it drove my parents crazy. I just loved that movie. It had it all--a beautiful, hardworking, and relatable heroine, a handsome prince, drama, romance, cute animals, and a Fairy Godmother. It was a little girl's dream come true. And so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Disney was making a live action version of the story. Talk about an appealing concept. I knew there was no way The He would be willing to pay movie theater prices for this flick, and so I went to see it with my mom and sister—a gal’s bonding experience.

What did I think? Was it worth the extra effort of seeing it in the theater? I think I can sum up my reaction to this movie in one word: “meh.” Cinderella is by no means bad—it's a decent film—but it felt like it was missing something, that extra spark that the animated feature has.

Let me back up and give you a very basic premise. Ella is a beautiful young girl who has the perfect childhood. Her mother is stunning to look at, and has the heart to match her physical beauty. Ella's father is extremely devoted but his work often pulls him away from the family for weeks to months at a time. When they are all together, the family is extremely happy, basking in each other's love and living the good life. However, it's not all to last.

Ella's mother falls ill and passes away. After a period of mourning, Ella's dad decides it would be best for everyone if he were to remarry. He weds Lady Tremaine, and she moves into the family home with her two daughters Anastasia and Druzella and their cat, the aptly named Lucifer. Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Druzella very quickly butt heads with Ella, and Ella's father is pulled away from the family once again for work. While he is traveling abroad, he become ill and ends up dying. Now Ella finds herself completely alone, aside from her very new stepmother and stepsisters, and they begin to treat her very unkindly. Basically, they treat Ella like a servant, and banish her to sleep in the attic.

Cinderella

One day while out riding, Ella comes across a mysterious man on an elk hunt. He says he's an apprentice named Kit. Of course, we know that he's the prince gone incognito. The pair have an instinct connection, but separate without really getting to know each other. The prince has been getting a lot of pressure at home to choose a wife, with a preference for a princess in particular. Wanting to see the mysterious Ella again, he asks to have a ball where every eligible woman in the kingdom is invited. The prince promises that he will select a bride by the end of the night.

Lady Tremaine and her daughters plan to attend, but do not want Cinderella there as well. They tear her mother's dress and Ella winds up in tears. But her Fairy Godmother appears, and hooks Ella up with a new dress, carriage, and glass slippers. Ella makes it to the ball and she and the prince are reacquainted there. She becomes aware of his true identity but he still does not know who she is. Their time together is once again cut short, though, as the clock nears midnight. Ella must flee, because her spell is going to wear off and all will return to its former state. As she runs from the befuddled Kit, she leaves only one clue behind, a glass slipper that fell off her foot.

The prince cannot stand to lose his love again, and so he goes on a mission to track down the mysterious girl. His staff travels the kingdom looking for the girl whose foot fits the glass slipper. They strike out. Finally, they arrive at Lady Tremaine's home, where Ella has been locked away in the attic. However, the power of her song cannot be stifled, and as she sings from her cell, the prince's staff realizes that there is another young lady at the home. The slipper, of course, fits Ella, and the prince is reunited with his love so they can live happily ever after.

Let's start with what is great about this movie. Cate Blanchett was stunning as the evil stepmother. She is cruel and ruthless—a truly broken woman with a lot of problems. And her costumes are by far the most notable in the film, even more so than those of Lily James, who played Ella/Cinderella. Blanchett has one of those faces that allows for maximum versatility as an actress. She can look very loving and approachable one minute, and downright sinister the next. As the stepmother, she is a very awful person, and yet she seems slightly fragile as well, like she could fall apart at any moment.

James, who is probably not too well known in the States, aside from her Downton Abbey claim to fame as Lady Rose, is cute and pouty, spending much of the movie giggling and grinning, despite finding herself in some desperate circumstances. She was fine in the role, but I found her character to not be as complex as I would have hoped. Maybe it's just Blanchett's dominance on screen, but she seemed to school James in the art of expressing emotion through the slightest twitch of the nose or flicker of an eye. James did not carry the film the way I hoped she would.

Cinderella

The same can be said for the Prince aka Kit, played by Richard Madden, an actor who I've honestly never heard of before. He's not bad, but he's just a little too doe-eyed and cheesy, almost so much so that he's kind of unbelievable. I'm not sure that he and James really had great chemistry, and I felt like there were several awkward moments between the two. I think they were meant to be longing stares, but to me they just kind of came across as general weirdness. I think this is as much director Kenneth Branagh's fault as it was anyone else's. He staged these awkward scenarios. Speaking of awkward, Helena Bonham Carter seemed like a natural choice as the Fairy Godmother, and yet, on screen, she came across as goofy to the point of public drunkenness. I just didn't connect with her performance.

As mentioned before, the costumes in this film were amazing. It's clear that Disney spared no expense in that department. I left the film really wanting my own pair of glass slippers. However, where the dresses were spectacular, the special effects in Cinderella were only so-so. Ella has a lot of interaction with the animals at her home, and most of these are done in CGI, but they are at times cartoonish looking.

One thing lacking of this film was definitely music. I treasured the songs in the animated Cinderella, but this version had none of that. I think this left the movie with a void. Some musical segments really would have helped to bring some magic to the screen. This is a very loose comparison, but Enchanted had some delightful music that really helped to amp up the excitement and positive energy of that film. A little bit of that, here, would have helped immensely.

Overall, Cinderella was not a bad film—I know I'm being hard on it—but I was expecting more. It was not nearly as touching, magical, and memorable as I would have hoped for, and the romance was hit or miss. The film felt like it was seeking to appeal to both children and adults, but didn’t quite have all the items it needed to achieve either. Music would have helped with the kids, and a deeper, more complex heroine would have helped with the adults. Check out Ever After if you’re an adult looking for your Cinderella fix. It’s not a by-the-book telling of the story, but accomplishes a bit more than this film does.

Thumbs half up.