Just in case you haven’t heard, Disney has done a live action version of the classic animated musical Cinderella from 1950. Starring Lily James of Downton Abby as the titular character, and Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine the Wicked Stepmother. Helena Bonham Carter is in the movie for a moment playing the Fairy Godmother. I admit to being most interested in seeing Cate Blanchett, I mean… It’s the Red Carpet Queen! The original version was an animated musical, with amazing songs and the charm of a simpler age. The last time they updated, was in this incredibly romantic image of Scarlett Johansson fleeing in the moonlight leaving behind our favorite glass slipper. The basic story is that a rich girl’s life is forever changed by the death of first her mother, and then her re-married father. She is left in the care of his second wife, who has two daughters of her own to care for. The Wicked Step decides to reduce Cinderella to the status of a drudge, cleaning and cooking and sleeping in the embers of the kitchen fire for warmth. As Cinderella was raised to be somewhat meek and accomodating, she never fights against her situation. She stays as cheerful as possible while dealing with emotional and verbal abuse, overwork, and near starvation. Cinderella’s shining moment comes when she hears of a royal ball that all of the maidens in the village can attend. It is the turning point of her life in many ways, and from that moment on the story starts to morph into the metamorphosis of our heroine from maid to princess to princess bride. While Cinderella’s new relatives spend all their time getting ready and ultimately leave her stranded at home, magic comes to her rescue and she is delivered to the ball in a gilt carriage in gown so stunning that any girl would feel a princess in it. While Cinderella is virtuous and good, Lady Tremain is worldly and sophisticated. The animated version looked old and somewhat stiff, but this version of the Wicked Step wears clothing designed to look like movie star costumes from the 40s. Her red lipsticked mouth smiles wide with deceptive flirtation. She lives for being beautiful and advancing the careers of her two daughters Anastasia (Holiday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera of Downton Abbey). While the costumes are sumptuous, I admit to missing the music. I love A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes or So This Is Love. Music made the story more magical and while you knew that Cinderella was suffering, it wasn’t as real. The mice she talked to were animated and talked back so they weren’t as gross as real ones. I loved the look of the film, it is truly lovely and worthy of any fairy tale. However, it was kind of like watching the Color Purple? But with white people and castles. It made me angry to see someone suffer so passively. I rooted for her to stand up and say NO! But that’s not the way this story goes. It was really hard to watch this girl have everything taken away from her and to see her end up in a barren attic with nothing because her stepmother just didn’t like her. How unfair is that?
I wanted her to rescue herself, or to see this relationship changed, as Disney did in Malficent where a bond was formed between the two main female characters. It was unsatisfying to see this end the same old way… with no deeper understanding of how women can learn to work together and live together without envy and hatred destroying them. In the end, Cinderella has been rescued and all ends well but… I couldn’t help but wish that they had taken a different and more original route. Merchandising tie-ins include a MAC makeup collection in sweet pastels, dolls from Disney, and a Sephora/OPI nailpolish line.
*Update– I found the real Cinderella nail polish line from Morgan Taylor!
Details: The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, with costume design by Sandy Powell. The screenplay was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Chris Weitz.