When my little nieces Cherry and Cheeni are home during their vacations, it is a ritual for the three of us to do a little outing together – go to the movies. With the release of Cinderella this time around it was even more special. My elder niece Cherry left no stone unturned in announcing its release and how it was compulsory for us to see it. Since I am at their beck and call; like a good aunt, yesterday I immediately booked the 10 a.m. show for this morning. It was slightly difficult to wake up the little Cheeni early morning for the movie, but finally even she was up and we took off for experiencing the lovely Cinderella at PVR IMAX.
I must admit I was in for a complete delight. I hadn’t read up on the movie and assumed it would be the regular Disney-like animation; but I was in for an amazing surprise when I saw real life characters playing reel life roles in the legendary fairy tale. The 2015 version of Cinderella is a live action romantic fantasy film directed by Kenneth Branagh inspired by the fairy tale Cinderella by Charles Perrault, with some references from the Brothers Grimm’s version of the story.
If you are wondering if the film offers anything new, it does not. But it is an enchanting 112 minutes of pure fantasy that transports you to the beautiful estate that is home to Cinderella and her wealthy parents in a peaceful kingdom. I’ve never written a movie review before, but the beautiful words of Cinderella’s mother got me thinking. From a young age she teaches Cinderella to be courageous and kind and to believe in the existence of magic; something that we need to teach our children in this day and age to help them become better people in this big bad world. I loved it when she said “you have more kindness in your fingers than anyone has in their body. Oh! Such a beautiful expression!
Ella (Cinderella) leads a wonderfully happy life throughout her childhood with her ever-loving and kind parents and her animal friends on the estate. Everything is perfect until her mother contracts an illness and dies. On her deathbed, she makes Ella promise that she’ll always have courage and show kindness to others. When Ella gets to her teens, her father marries Lady Tremaine, the widow of an old acquaintance, who has two daughters of her own, Drisella and Anastasia. The kind Ella welcomes her step family warmly, despite the stepsisters’ unpleasant attitudes.
All hell breaks loose when Ella’s father goes abroad on business, becomes ill and also dies. Lady Tremaine then reveals her true cold, cruel and jealous nature, dismissing the servants and forcing Ella to become the ‘servant-girl’. She forces Ella to sleep in the cold attic. One morning, after Ella sleeps by the fireplace for warmth, her soot covered face leads her stepsisters to name her ‘Cinderella’. This was something new I learnt in the movie.
Wanting some respite from their cruelty, Ella goes for a ride in the woods, where she encounters a hunting party, and meets one of the hunters – an apprentice named Kit who lives in the palace. Little did she know that he is actually the only son of the land’s dying king! Kit is enchanted by Ella’s charm, kindness, and unique outlook on life and becomes infatuated with her. The dying King insists that Kit finds a bride at an upcoming ball. Despite the law of the land that the prince must marry a princess, Kit can’t get over the mystery girl and talks his father into letting every eligible maiden in the land attend.
When the ball is announced, the Tremaine family is ecstatic at the prospect of marrying into royalty. But as luck would have it, Lady Tremaine refuses to buy Ella a new dress. When Ella fashions one herself from an old dress of her mother’s with help from the mice, to go to the ball; the stepmother leads her daughters into ripping up the dress before leaving without he. Ella runs into the garden in tears and encounters an old beggar woman who asks her for milk and bread. She later reveals herself to be her Fairy Godmother and uses her magic to turn a pumpkin into a magnificent golden carriage, four mice into horses, two lizards into footmen and a goose into a coachman. She turns Ella’s torn dress into a gorgeous blue gown complete with glass shoes before sending her off, with the warning that the spell only lasts until midnight.
At the ball, Kit asks Ella for the coveted first dance and she is pleasantly surprised to learn his true identity. After dancing, Kit takes Ella for a tour of the palace and grounds, slowly falling in love. The subtle romance between them is beautiful. Then the clock strikes 11:59, forcing her to flee and dropping one of her glass shoes at the palace stairs. She gets away before the stroke of midnight and hides the other shoe in her room as a memento.
After the King dies, Kit, in order to find his true love announces that every maiden in the kingdom is to try on the shoe. Alas, the stepmother figures out Ella’s identity from her attitude after the ball, and demands that Ella makes her head of the royal family and give her daughters proper husbands when she becomes queen. When Ella refuses, she smashes the shoe and locks Ella in her room.Movie review @CinderellaMovie by Archana Kapoor @delectable_doll #Cinderella Click To Tweet
She then brings the shoe and identity of the mystery girl to the Grand Duke and talks him into rewarding her with title of countess and worthy husbands for her daughters. The Duke takes the shattered shoe to Kit, hoping to convince him to forget the mystery girl, but this makes him more determined than ever to find his true love. The Grand Duke and the captain of the guards lead a garrison to try the remaining shoe on all the maidens in the land, all of whom are rejected by its magic, before arriving at the Tremaine estate. When the shoe rejects both stepsisters, they turn to leave, only to hear Ella singing thanks to the mice opening her attic window. Truly a magical moment! The Grand Duke tries to leave anyway but is stopped by none other than Kit himself, in disguise; and demands that the captain investigate the sound. Once Ella is found, Lady Tremaine tries to forbid her from trying on the shoe, but is overruled by the captain. The shoe fits and Ella leaves with Kit after forgiving her stepmother. The three of them are then banished from the kingdom, along with the Grand Duke. Kit and Ella get married and are crowned the new king and queen. And in the words of the Fairy Godmother, they become the land’s most beloved monarchs, ruling with the courage and kindness she promised her mother, and lived happily ever after!
The film is an update of the old favourite and is very much as it has always been. – a live-action spin based on the same basic tale, same beats, same Disney flourishes – the mice, usual costume changes, customary prince/commoner meet-cutes. Cinderella is destined to have one beautiful evening that will define the rest of her life. Her dance with the prince is completely epic and is an acknowledgement of how breathless such an evening would leave you. Since Ella is as her mother directed- courageous and kind, she is appropriately struck by having one of the most memorable, perfect nights of her life.
The casting works flawlessly. Cate Blanchett is a gorgeously evil stepmother, Richard Madden a delightful Prince Charming, Helena Bonham Carter a hilariously loopy Fairy Godmother, and Hayley Atwell the lovely mother that little Ella could ever hope for. Kenneth Branagh certainly knows how to wring superb performances from everyone.
I think the movie’s greatest strength is its ability to equate the attributes that Ella’s mother was so very insistent upon. The suggestion that courage and kindness are intertwined irrevocably and that one must have courage to be kind, is completely bound to the narrative. It takes true force of will to be kind in the face of extreme adversity; and in that way, Cinderella’s niceness becomes something of a superpower, truly magical. She is heroic for never succumbing to pressures and understands in the purest sense what it means to take the high ground. The relationship between the prince and his father offers a mirror image of Cinderella’s relationship with her mother. It is no wonder as to why Ella would develop such a rapid romantic attachment to a stranger. They have a lot in common than one might expect, starting with a deep, abiding love for those closest to them.
The only part where the movie disappointed me somewhat was in the stepmother’s story. Instead of just forgiving her stepmother and leaving her to her own fate, I would have loved to see Cinderella give her some consideration. Since the movie takes great pains to show the ways in which a woman of her position can be wronged, it would have been nice if Cinderella reached out to her stepmother.
The IMAX experience was stellar and it was amazing to see a pumpkin turn into a carriage, a girl talk to mice, and a prince find true love in an ordinary girl dressed in a blue ball gown with magnificent glass shoes. My little girls thoroughly enjoyed the two hours of unadulterated fantasy and I was excited to see that the most basic of fairy tales can still sweep us off our collective feet.