Saturday, March 21, 2015

Movie: Cinderella

Continuing the series of fairytales that are being made into movies or remakes is Kenneth Branagh's visually captivating Cinderella starring Lily James and Robert Madden as Prince Charming.

The movie follows exactly the Disney version of fairytale Cinderella. Young Ella lives a beautiful, happy life with her father and mother. Her father is merchant who often travels away from home. When at home the family are kind and caring to one another. Then one day Ella's mother takes ill and then dies. Before dying Ella's mother tells her to have courage and to be kind.

Ella grows into a beautiful, kind woman. One day her father tells her that he will be marrying Lady Tremaine and that her two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella will be coming to live in their home. After the marriage, Ella's father resumes his business travels, only to die while away. This leaves Lady Tremaine in charge of the estate.

From their arrival, it is evident that neither Lady Tremaine nor her ill-mannered daughters are fond of Ella. Their treatment of her is dismissive at first but burgeons into full blown resentment and hatred. Gradually she is sent to live in the attic.

One day while out riding, Ella comes across a handsome young man who is part of a hunting party after a stag. She refuses to give him her name and he tells her his name is Kit but does not reveal that he is the Crown Prince. Ella returns home happy while Kit returns to the palace determined to learn the identity of the beautiful young girl he met in the forest. His father however, reminds him that he has a duty to marry a "princess" but Kit feels this is not important.

In order to learn the identity of the mystery girl, Kit, decides to hold a ball, to which every eligible maiden will be invited. This of course, sets in motion the events that lead to them finding one another, losing each other again and the discovery of the real identity of the prince's mystery girl.

Branagh's Cinderella is a lovely adaptation of the Disney fairytale that recaptures the innocence of the story. Parents with young children, older viewers who wish to just enjoy a good fairytale without the dark elements, the modern cynicism and the feminist overtones so common in even children's movies, will love this film. Ella is beautiful, kind and courageous - true to her mother's dying request. No matter how terrible Lady Tremaine treats Ella, she meets her time and again with unfailing kindness and respect. Even when all seems lost and she's locked in the attic, Ella refuses to despair or hate. And when Ella is rescued by the Prince from the clutches of Lady Tremaine, she responds not with hate or condescension but with forgiveness and humility. Lily James superbly captures Ella's purity of soul and strong character.

Prince Charming is well.... absolutely charming with a gorgeous smile and a determination to discover the true identity of the maiden who's captured his imagination. Encouraged by his father, the king, to marry a woman based on her social status, Kit hesitates. Despite everyone telling him that he doesn't know this girl and even that she is not suitable, he trusts his own instincts. He treats her with deference and respect. He also suspects that someone in the palace may be working against him.

As expected, Helena Bonham Carter plays the fairy godmother with her typical eccentricity. First appearing to Cinderella as a quirky, beggar-woman, she tests Ella by asking for something to drink and eat. Cinderella kindly complies. In this film, Helena is far from the Tim Burton style she's known for Les Miserables and Sweeney Todd. Her gown is pure white with 400 LED lights to achieve that fairy-godmother magic.

Cate Blanchette plays Lady Tremaine with cold harshness that convinces viewers there's not a nice bone in her body. Beautiful in a chilling sort of way, Lady Tremaine's evil is only emphasized by her spectacular couture costumes in bold colours and rich velvety fabrics.

Some aspects of Cinderella are exquisitely done. For example, the scene where Ella stumbles upon her fairy godmother, who turns a pumpkin, mice and a few lizards into a coach, horses and footmen, is brilliantly done. The lizard footmen are fantastic, still retaining some of their reptilian qualities that make them a bit repulsive but not enough to be totally off-putting. It's a chance once again, to showcase Ella's remarkable magnanimity as she treats the footman kindly, even though he's a bit creepy looking.

The costuming in Cinderella is simply stunning. Three time Oscar winner, Sandy Powell designed all the costumes including the amazing dresses worn by Lily James and Cate Blanchett. Swarovski provided Powell with 1.7 million crystals with which to use in Cinderella's ball gown and shoes. Cinderella's gown contains 270 yards of fabric in twelve layers and 10,000 Swarovski crystals. Powell wanted the dress to be voluminous and "to look like she was floating" when she danced and also ran down the stairs. Her wedding dress was simpler and more modest because as Powell explained in an interview with Paul Chi of Vanity Fair,  “Cinderella wins the Prince’s heart through her goodness, so I wanted to show this through her clothes."

The Prince, played by Robert Madden who has deep blue eyes, wore a blue wool military jacket that highlighted his eyes. It was modelled after the jacket in the Disney animated movie made years ago. 

Sandy Powell began working on the costume design two years before the film and has said that she blended 19th century style with that of the 1940's. This was especially evident in Lady Tremaine's costumes which are almost all done in green - the colour of envy.

Cinderella is a delightfully refreshing movie. Just go see this lovely film.

The trailer contains brief cuts of many scenes in this wonderful movie. Enjoy!

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