In Theatres: 
Mar 13, 2015
Running Time: 
112 minutes

What’s old is new again.

With the success of last year’s Maleficent and Frozen, Disney is back on top (of course, the acquisition of Pixar didn’t hurt either) of cinematic family fair. Moreover, they’re capitalizing on this renewed golden age by pillaging their first golden age of animated classics and repacking them as lush live action features. As safe as the bet seems, remaking your own classics is not the piece of cake one might think. You have to strike a balance between the old, bringing in new elements, and retaining the magic that made the original a classic in the first place. Luckily, with Cinderella, all is achieved.

Now, there’s not much you can do about the original story of Disney’s Cinderella. It is still about a kind girl who is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. She never rebels in anyway, is conveniently blessed by a fairy godmother who has odd timing (I mean, where was she all this time BEFORE the ball?!) and is rewarded by marrying a prince that takes her away from the drudgery and harm.

Considering Disney’s more recent princesses, who get to be their own heroes in their stories, not freshening up Cinderella is a missed opportunity. It’s even more disappointing for those of us who love and cherished Disney’s 1997 Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. When in this most current version, her step sisters, (Sophie McShera as Drizella, Holliday Grainger as Anastasia) suggest that she may impaired because she speaks to mice as if they’re her real friends, I find myself inclined to agree.

However, it’s not always the story itself, but the way in which it is told and Cinderella is beautifully done. The costuming and set designs remind me of the grandeur found in Marie Antoinette and Anna Karenina. The ball scenes in the palace have an incredible dream like quality. The costumes; mixtures from late 1800’s combined with other costumes from 40’s and 50’s; are confusing at first.  However, this disruption of a solid time period add to the surrealism of the fairy tale.

What has been added to this reimagining are more scenes between the prince (Richard Madden) and his father, the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård). Their relationship is much more loving and less angry than in the animated version and adds a genuine emotional gravity.

Helena Bonham Carter, more well known for her darker characters, is a dizzying delight as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Light, but not incompetent, I wish we could have learned more about her. You can’t help but to wonder what she was up to this entire time that Ella has spent suffering in that house.Secret Fairy Godmother missions?

The rich colors and fabrics of Lady Tremaine’s (Cate Blanchett) wardrobe made me gasp and praise each of her scenes. Blanchett is a vision of old Hollywood 1940’s glamour. Her cutting looks and spitefulness reminded me of  Faye Dunaway’s cruelty in Mommie Dearest. Lady Tremaine’s contempt of Ella is palpable. Tremaine is fascinated by her, jealous of her, and fearful of her.  Blanchett plays these poisonous mix of festering emotions with such great dexterity it is delicious to behold. It almost impossible to imagine anyone else inhabiting the role.

Despite the not so great story, perhaps being overly faithful to the animated version, Cinderella is sumptuous and entertaining, full of whimsy that pulls you in.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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