Thursday, March 19, 2015

So I Saw Disney's Cinderella 2015

Cinderella 2015 Wedding Dress, images from Vanity Fair.

Yesterday I saw the new Disney's Cinderella film, what was essentially a women's ritual in my immediate family that included my sister, her daughter (my five-year-old niece), my mother, and my sister's mother-in-law. I love all of these women and between all of us we have a very diversified relationship with Disney and its products. I am really not in the mood to write a review. I've thought about the film, yes, but analyzing it for its story is almost pointless. There is some, but not much, that diverges from the original animated Disney's Cinderella. The acting was fine, the sets were beautiful, the costumes were overall stunning. I will not forget Cinderella's wedding dress which was much more elegant and less little girl's dream than Cindy's ballgown which was just a tick or two below over the top ridiculousness. Really, it balanced on the precipice. I imagined the laughs they all had when shooting the dance scenes trying to choreography with and around that skirt. I see a new trend in wedding dresses either way. And the costumes in the early idyllic life scenes were making me long for spring in ways I haven't quite had time to do yet this year.

The rest of the women in my group loved the film to varying degrees, with little Kensie the most enthusiastic. She proceeded to dance and dance and dance at the bottom of the theatre steps after the film, a mix of romantic and pent up energies after sitting for too long energies since there was once again a plethora of previews before the film that lengthened it by too much by far, nevermind some that were not appropriate for the youngest audience members. But I digress. And am reminded of why I prefer home viewing of movies anymore. And then there were the first three trailers and commercials that were played without picture, just sound, until I got up to find someone to fix the problem although we were far from the only people in the theatre. I was amused and wondering if anyone would go and didn't even hear any conversations to that point, my innate observer tendencies entertaining me much more than any trailer could. But I was there for Kensie so I went and found someone to fix it for us.

My favorite line in the entire movie? "I speak French, not Italian." Only gotten in context but my only genuine surprised laugh. Most of my entertainment was from watching Kensie watch the movie. She is a princess incarnate and loves all of these fantasies and has a rich imagination. She also is getting other tales and stories and I am far from worried about her romantic expectations of life. She is a child who has only grown happier over the years as she has gained more autonomy. If there is a child who has hated being a child and the lack of control of her life it offers her, she is it. But she has a rich fantasy life that gets her through her frustrations where she grows up to be Queen of the Universe with many superpowers. And she firmly got the message that courage and kindness are much more important than beauty although in this movie, let's face it, beauty is a commodity as well. My mother pointed out that the real princess is beautiful, too, just the physical antithesis of Cinderella. The Prince prefers who.

That said, the few story changes that are there were richly borrowed from both Ever After and The Slipper and the Rose. The conniving stepmother is very much Ever After. Cate Blanchett did amazing things with her lines and never chewed the scenery. I would love to see what she would have brought to Ever After, although I've always been satisfied by Angelica Huston's performance in that. The "you must marry a princess" politic were much more The Slipper and the Rose, but not as heavy handed and never felt nearly as threatening to the ending as they do in Slipper.

But I admit as I compared it, I longed to watch Ever After again. There is a richness to the characters in that one while these characters only ever stayed flat for me and suffered by comparison. I liked this Cinderella just fine, but I didn't see growth in her, just an abiding patience which I am all for admiring--not all my heroines need to be Agent Carters or Wonder Womans or even Annas or Elsas--but it didn't give me much to see or explore beyond that one level, there wasn't a real struggle for her and her justified pain was nearly invisible relative to the level it deserved.

Overall, this is a perfect Disney product. It delivers exactly what it promises. There is nothing new here, but it is pretty and entertaining and will delight millions as it should. And it is very pretty, very, very pretty. I love pretty and this makes great wallpaper.


  1. What are your thoughts on Disney's 1950 Cinderella? Is this film better or worse?

  2. Interesting to read your review. Personally I prefer 'Cinderella' to 'Ever After'. Ella is not as obviously "strong" as Danielle, but she is strong in a subtle way. Her strength is not in defying authority, but in purposefully submitting to it and bearing cruelty with dignity. These are not qualities that our society understands (interestingly these are very Christian qualities).

    I don't think it's right to say Ella doesn't struggle - when she is given her new name and runs away, or when her stepmother rips apart her dress, you can see her internal conflict play out. But Ella is intentional in being kind; she swallows her own pain to be gracious to the messenger who has just told her of her father's death and the beggar woman (who turns out to be her fairy godmother) asking for food. Ella's true strength is in putting others before herself, even though it hurts her to do so.

    Everything is so understated in this film, a lot of it is easy to miss (a casual perusal of IMDB tells me most people don't understand Ella's character at all). But I actually think is is a very different kind of film for Disney, a breakthrough of sorts. It's traditional, but modern, if that makes sense. Much deeper than the 1950s cartoon (which has a special place in my heart, but in all honesty is kind of shallow).

  3. I actually admire the ability to bear cruelty with dignity and had no problem with Cinderella's ability to do that in this film. But I still think the ending is not earned. The film gives the explanation that she stays in her home because it was where her parents loved and it was important to them. She endures much. And, yes, she defies her stepmother and refuses to allow her stepmother to "control" the king by marrying him and then gets locked away in her attic. But unless she has severe PTSD from grief, believing she can never truly be happy again and must make no effort to grasp at love and happiness for herself, it is hard to fathom why she allows the level of abuse at the end of the film. There is no benefit to anyone for it. She might even starve to death if she remains locked in that room. I do not support a self-sacrificing patience that resembles The Giving Tree. She doesn't try to escape. She even has friends who would shelter her--the friend in the marketplace comments that she looks unwell (when she doesn't, ha! just some dirt on her face). She knows the King wants to marry her. And he isn't going to allow this crazy stepmother to manipulate him--so her sacrifices are not worthwhile. If she doesn't know that about him, then she can't really love him. Yes, he honors his father and duty, but if that is detrimental to his kingdom, he is solid in doing what is good for them. A rather inept stepmother is not going to be a problem to him. I wanted the courage Ella displayed to be more than self-sacrifice beyond reason. And, my own personal philosophies come in to play here, for I do not think it is either wise or Christian to allow someone to continually abuse you, to enable their bad behavior. Very strong personal belief. Get out, get out, get out, especially when great opportunities to get out exist. I'd have believed she wanted to hide from the King more out of the belief it would serve the kingdom better for him to make a marital alliance--the motivation for her disappearing in The Slipper and the Rose, I might add. Anyway, it all comes down to we bring our personal experiences and philosophies into our viewing of films like this. I really just want to say I don't need Danielle's level of spunk as seen in Ever After. But I need a woman who will stand up for herself a little more than this one does. There is a difference between docile and doormat. I believe in kindness.

    And that said, these other films allow for a deepening of the romantic relationship, more depth of discussion. Pretty much the prince likes Cinderella because she is kind to animals and doesn't know enough to realize he is the prince and is thus intimidating. Lily James brought much more intelligence to the character than the script did. A lesser actress would have only succeeded in making Ella vapid, which we do escape here. I see a character who is kind, long-suffering, virtuous and gracious. I admire those qualities. But I also see her as naive in her own suffering, immature as to how to handle her world when maturity would allow her to allow for other fine qualities to also inform her actions. I worry for her as queen. She will be kind to a fault and the kingdom will walk all over her.