Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned fairytale? Cinderella is the latest Disney animated film to get a live-action remake; however, audiences need not fear. This adaptation isn’t old and crusty, but rather sticks to the basics while adding a twist, which leaves the film feeling fresh.
Cinderella tells the story of a young woman named Ella (Lily James), who grows up in a happy and loving home with two adoring parents. However, when tragedy strikes the family and Ella’s mother dies, her father decides to remarry the widow Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), who also brings two daughters (Sophie McShera and Holiday Grainger) of her own into the marriage. Tragedy strikes again when Ella’s father dies to which Lady Tremaine seizes the opportunity to become master of the house and suppresses Ella and her authority. By degrees, Ella becomes a servant in her own home, earning her the nickname Cinderella, and she must bow to every the whim of her stepmother and stepsisters.
However, one afternoon while riding, she meets Prince Kit (Richard Madden), who immediately falls for the kind and lovely Ella. He doesn’t quite have time to catch her name before he has to ride off with his hunting party, but this encounter sends him on an quest to reunite with Ella. To achieve this, he throws a grand ball for everyone in the kingdom, with hopes that she’ll attend. With a little help from a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), Ella is whisked away to the ball to the night of her life in a magical carriage, a sparkly gown, and some killer shoes.
Many people have complained that this film seems exactly like the animated version and, as a result, the plot will be predictable. However, I can assure you that this is no carbon copy of Disney’s 1951 Cinderella. This version spends a lot more time focusing on Ella’s relationship with her parents and her slow transition into slavery, making you agonize for her plight, while also appreciating her resiliency.
The film also takes liberties with the narrative, putting a fun twist on the story. For example, Ella meets Prince Kit early on but doesn’t realize he’s the prince. Kit also falls for Ella but unfortunately never learns her name, resulting in him throwing a ball for everyone in the kingdom, with hopes that she’ll show up and they can reunite. The Prince, unlike in the animated film, has personality, wit, and spunk. You’re rooting for him because you feel his genuine compassion and love for Cinderella.
Lily James as Cinderella is simply perfect. She’s not a big A-list name (yet), so you’re not distracted by the celebrity. Instead you can focus on her sweet, kind and innocent portrayal of Cinderella. Cate Blanchett as the stepmother was another fantastic casting addition, as she almost steals the show from Lily. The stepmother is subtly cold and cruel and the step sisters are complete imbeciles who are always in lockstep with each other.
The costumes are out-of-this-world gorgeous, worthy of a Best Costume Design Oscar nomination. Cinderella’s ball gown, which instantly transforms her from a peasant to a regal maiden, is particularly stunning and it bounces and flows spectacularly on the dance floor, causing the jaws to drop of everyone in attendance.
One aspect of the film I didn’t like was the heavy CGI during a few scenes. Long panning shots of the castle or estate were all CGI, which looked fake and took me out of the moment. The CGI is at its worst during the Fairy Godmother scene, where she is transforming a pumpkin into a carriage and animals into horses and footmen. The special effects in this scene went rather cartoony, making the scene feel goofy. In a film mostly grounded in reality (despite being a fairytale), more realistic CGI would have been appropriate and still would have fit the tone the film had established to that point.
Some have criticized this movie for taking the feminist movement a few steps back. However, I’m pretty sure that this film never was made with the intention of breaking ground in that arena. Cinderella is based on a classic fairy tale, which highlights traditional roles and attitudes of women of those times. Since when was it such a bad thing to be a loving, kind, soft spoken, obedient daughter or woman? Cinderella is a great role model, and I personally was inspired to be a better woman as a result of watching the film. It was actually refreshing to see a traditional take on a traditional fairy tale for once, since recently the world has been obsessed with flipping fairy tales on their heads.
Ella’s mother’s advice of “Have courage and be kind” is both Ella’s and the film’s credo. Cinderella is an inspiring, uplifting film that will make you leave the theatre wanting to be a better person despite your circumstances.
Morgan is an Arizona native who's had a lifelong passion for animation. Her favorite animated films are Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Iron Giant. She earned an MBA in Marketing from Arizona State University and now runs her own business where she coaches and trains entrepreneurs how to launch, grow & scale successful online businesses.