When I was sick, my mom would camp me out on the couch with juice, a blanket, soda crackers, and Disney’s 1950 animated classic Cinderella. Needless to say, I loved that movie as a child, and now as an adult it holds a special place in my heart. I was excited when Disney studios decided to make a live action version. Well, excited and a little nervous. A part of me was afraid they would butcher the movie, try to turn Cinderella into some feminist warrior princess, or change the focus of the story to some modern political or social statement. But as trailers came out I began to relax, because it looked like it would be just as magical as the classic film.
Emily and I saw Cinderella together in Downtown Disney. (It seemed fitting.) We both loved it. Kenneth Branagh, who directed the film, kept the story true to the original, while still making it feel fresh and new. The actors were all amazing, and the costumes were incredibly magical.
This adaptation remained true to the original. Ella has a happy childhood with her mother and father. Before her mother dies, she tells Ella that she must always “have courage and be kind”. After her mother’s death, her father remarries Madame Tremaine (the fabulous Cate Blanchett). Then her father passes away, and Ella’s stepmother and sisters reduce her to nothing more than a servant. But through all of these hardships, Ella remembers to have courage and be kind.
Everyone knows the rest of the story. Ella, dubbed Cinderella by her stepsisters, meets the prince. With the help of her fairy godmother, she goes to the ball, and runs away leaving a glass slipper behind. The prince uses this slipper to search far and wide for her, and when he finds her, they live happily ever after.
Though I think this is a timeless story, those of you who find it outdated with enjoy the subtle updates Branagh made. There’s some political intrigue, glimpses into Madame Tremaine to make her more sympathetic. But the heart of the story is the same. Ella finds her happy ending while her stepmother and sisters do not because she is kind when they are cruel.
Lily James is wonderful as Cinderella. She captures Ella’s brave but gentle spirit, her courage and strength. Richard Madden is dashing as Kit, i.e. Prince Charming. Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera are hilarious as Ella’s stepsisters, and Cate Blanchett is incredible as always.
But just as beautiful as the actors themselves are the costumes. Cinderella’s ball gown is the most magical dress I’ve ever seen, and the prince’s costumes are also incredible. Cate Blanchett wears her dresses so perfectly. All of the costumes are beautiful colors and fun styles. Sandy Powell is amazing.
But the real reason why I loved this adaptation of Cinderella so much is because it stayed true to the message. In today’s culture, girls are often told to be brave, to be fierce, to be strong and independent. These are not bad things, but all of these messages overlook a very important part of being a girl—of being a human being. Seldom are girls, or boys, told to be kind. It’s Ella’s kindness that not only wins her the prince, but also sees her through all of the hardships she faces. It’s Ella’s kindness that is her strength, and where she finds her courage. Yes, it is important to be brave and strong, but we must always remember that it is just as important—if nor more important—to be kind.