My first early screening of the year was for Disney’s latest live-action adaptation, Cinderella.
I’ll be honest with you: I was not that excited for this movie. We’ve seen a few live-action Disney fairy tales and they haven’t done very well. And while Maleficent was a villain backstory, I couldn’t discern any actual new twists, and well, I own the original 1950 animated movie so I know the story? What is this new movie bringing to the table besides Cate Blanchett and a bunch of other actors that I don’t actually know very well.
ALSO, I’m not going to lie, I was a little salty about how bright blue the new dress is. Cindy’s dress was this silvery white that looked just barely blue in the light. It’s a beautiful dress, don’t get me wrong, but I just felt miffed by the color.
Also why does the shoe look so weird and polygonal? It just didn’t bode well for the movie, for me.
Sigh… Not sure what to expect from Disney live action adaptations anymore, but I tried to go into it with an open mind… and a themed DisneyBound of course!
Now, on to the actual review.
You know what’s kind of awkward… is when the movie ends and people want to know how it is. But they phrase it like this:
“Did you like the movie?”
“I loved it, it was amazing right??”
No. I did not think it was amazing, I’m sorry. I found it, basically, exactly as underwhelming as I thought it would be. That being said, I think I went into it with the expectations that this was a movie for adults. It’s not that it’s a movie for children, per se, but it’s also not quite a movie for adult Disney fans either…
Let me back it up and talk some of the things I liked about this new adaptation:
- Costuming was exquisite. Seriously, it was pretty glorious. My cavorite costume of the film is Lady Tremaine’s first that we see in the film, with a spectacular black and gold color scheme. Most of her later costumes have green, and I don’t like green, especially wearing it, but I loved this first costume.
- Set design was beautiful. Oh man, it was really gorgeous. When Anastasia and Drizella are making fun of Cinderella’s house, it totally baffles me because uh, the house is beautiful. The Prince’s castle? Wow.
- Action scenes are best in live-action. The scene where Cinderella is fleeing the castle as the clock strikes twelve is well-done in live-action. That kind of tension-building doesn’t come across as well in most animations, so this was done pretty well.
- Scoring was also done really nicely. Although I will talk through some of my issues with it in a bit.
Essentially, my takeaway from this movie was that it took the fairy tale feeling that was conveyed by the animated 1950 films and translated that fairy tale magic through the aesthetics. Gilded everything, soft sunlit scenes. The movie was so nice to look at. But beyond that, I really found it lacking a lot.
Let me talk about the music really quickly. I was pretty dismayed that the songs from the 1950 movie weren’t used in this film, even in the scoring. The only song I recognized from the original soundtrack was when Lily James briefly sang “Sing Sweet Nightingale”. By briefly, I literally mean she sang the line “Sing sweet, nightingale” once while doing her chores. I didn’t hear the motif throughout the rest of that scene. I did not hear “So This is Love” as a motif in scenes with Richard Madden. I did not hear “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” at any point. And no “Bippidi Boppidi Boo” for our fairy godmother scene.
I didn’t love the casting of Helena Bonham Carter for the fairy godmother. It added to the confusion of what this movie was trying to be. After all, it wasn’t trying to be a super faithful live-action recreation because Helena’s fairy godmother is nothing like the matronly wise old woman archetype that we had in 1950. She is also not likely popular among children. So she’s cast in this film for adults and yet her role was so campy that I don’t understand what the larger goal was for this casting choice. And when you have so little screentime but are so heavily advertised (kind of like Johnny Depp in Into the Woods) you have to make THE MOST out of it and I just felt that her performance, much like many of the non-Blanchett performances, fell flat.
In fact, that was my major problem with the entire film. Overall, it seemed like it was aiming to just be a highly romanticized period film with some magic. But I felt so overwhelmingly uncharmed by it. What was it trying to be? It was not a faithful adaptation of the original animated movie, as it needed to do something original. (Didn’t love those twists, but I’ll talk about those in my spoilers.) It wasn’t innocent and light enough to be a children’s movie, but it was too campy to be an adult movie.
I definitely had an issue with the dialogue. Most of it was cringe-worthy. It was not natural, maybe because of this lofty romantic fuzzy daydream vision they were going for? BUT THEN explain Helena Bonham Carter’s character? The goofy fairy godmother? Goofier than Whitney Houston’s. I mean, she’s HBC. We know what to expect from her, and she deliver that, but it seemed so out of place in this film.
You know, let’s go back to talking about the actors for a minute. Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but they gave her such odd lines to work with. Lady Tremaine as a character is just kind of cruel because she can be. They weakened that in this film, and I don’t understand why they did this. She did what she could, but even she couldn’t salvage the awkward dialogue. There’s nothing WRONG with the actors in this film, but the performances were just all so flat and lacked depth. Richard Madden? Lily James? YAWN. I do find casting Richard Madden as Prince Charming odd. He’s not handsome in the conventional Disney way of casting men who look young and dashing and charming? He’s more handsome in that John Stamos way, if that makes sense? It seemed odd. He was also one of the more expressive actors in the movie, and that’s saying something. The stepsisters were comical, as they’re supposed to be, but were they actually much more animated than everyone else or did they just seem so much more lively relative to their costars? True, their funny moments were pretty funny. The comic nature of how ridiculous the sisters are was maintained in this movie, thank goodness. Those two made the most of their time on screen.
Oh, but Cate Blanchett really was brilliant. Truly an amazing actress, and the little things sh did really reminded me of some of the great actresses that have graced the silver screen. She already is in their company. Amazing.
I’m going to cut to a trailer before I rip into this some more, but I’m going to rip into this some more after the trailer:
Cinderella is out in theaters March 13. Spoilers to follow:
OKAY LEMME TALK VILLAINS FOR A MINUTE. Lady Tremaine is our primary villain, of course, but somehow the Grand Duke also becomes a villain? Our goofy beloved Duke with his monocle from the animated film is now Stellan Skarsgård with an agenda?
Why would he care if Prince Charming marries a princess or not? Especially after the king has already agreed to let his son marry whomever he wants? What’s in it for him, exactly? Especially since, in the original film, both he and the king are rather comical foils in the movie. The king being very politically motivated makes more sense (and maybe it was best that they didn’t have him be obsessed with grandchildren) but the Grand Duke? (But also, good for Stellan on nabbing another Disney role. You’ll always be Bootstrap Bill to me.)
Speaking of villainy, Lady Tremaine’s little.. outburst doesn’t make much sense. Cinderella tearfully asks “Why are you so cruel to me?” before her stepmother locks her in the attic. For some reason, Lady Tremaine answers. Or begins to answer?
“Why? Because you are young… and good… and innocent… and…”
And then she shuts the door. It’s a really strange moment that is both good and bad. It’s good in that we see Lady Tremaine as kind of a very humanly wicked person. I saw an interview with Cate Blanchett where she explains that she wanted to portray this character as being jealous of Cinderella and hardened by time. She is no longer as beautiful or kind as she once was, and Cinderella kind of reminds her of that every single day. But this doesn’t come across in the movie, except perhaps in the costuming decision to have her wear green for most of the film. (Ugh. Green.) And this is perhaps why Drizella wears yellow in the film rather than green, which is what she wears in the animated film. However, this does not really come across in the film or in this scene, which leaves this scene kind of just hanging there for the audience to hold in their hands and not know what to do with.
And one black character, who lacks real depth and is just kind of Prince Charming’s sidekick? Shame on you, Disney. You’re better than this. Give me back that Rogers and Hammerstein movie, please.
I know this will be a hugely unpopular opinion from the buzz I heard in the theater, but I did not like Cinderella’s transformation scene. I felt that — in the midst of all these special effects — it lost more than it gained in comparison to the original magical moment. The original was so simplistic in its magicalness. This moment was just drawn out quite a lot… and it didn’t really feel worth it in the end.
It looked nice but I felt like… with what they had and were using, they could’ve made it better? I don’t know, again, I felt underwhelmed here. I remember feeling consciously disappointed with this scene, as I thought this was THE MOMENT that they made the live-action adaptation completely justified. This was the moment where they truly brought the magic of the original film to life. And it came short of that.
I liked that this movie answered a few questions that the animated film left unanswered:
- Why didn’t the Tremaines recognize Cinderella at the ball? (Answer: Fairy Godmother cast a spell on Cindy’s face….. that made it so they couldn’t? This wasn’t terribly clear as to the mechanism, only the goal. Which was clearly achieved.)
- Why on earth would Prince Charming go around the kingdom trying a shoe on girls who were VERY clearly not Cinderella? (Answer: He didn’t. He was left in charge of the kingdom as his father had passed away, and the Grand Duke, who didn’t spend that intimate time with Cinderella, was given the shoe as a criteria for finding her in lieu of actually knowing what she looked like. This actually seems very reasonable.)
Lemme ask a question to our world-builders here: Is there some kind of terrible epidemic in this kingdom? Cindy’s mother (played by Hayley Atwell!!) dies of something, her father dies of something, the king dies of something. There is clearly a public health crisis at hand here.
I AM SORRY I DID NOT LIKE IT. I wanted to, but when you bring a cherished and magical movie to life 65 years later, you have to live up to high expectations. Especially if you are Disney. Snow White was done twice in 2012 and people were like “Yeah, Disney would’ve done a better adaptation because they own the source material from the animated film.”
But would they have?
Can Disney really live up to the expectations of these live-action adaptations? I’m starting to have my doubts.