By: Muneeb Arshid
One of the great things about having young cousins is that if there is a children’s film that you’ve missed during the year, you can go back and watch it again. This allows one to appreciate a genre that may not resonate with all adults. One of these films is 2015’s live-action Cinderella.
The 2015 live-action remake stars Lily James as Cinderella, Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones fame) as the Prince and Cate Blanchett playing the wickedest of stepmothers; I’ll delve into her character in depth further down.
Disney is famous for its great animated films, which includes the acclaimed 1950 rendition of Cinderella. Additional films making up Disney’s fantastic repertoire of classic animations include The Jungle Book and The Lion King; the former will be receiving the live-action treatment ala Cinderella early next year. This is the big step forward that Disney is taking, converting said classic animated films into live-action so as to appeal to a newer generation. This plan seems to have worked thus far, as the live-action Cinderella was well received by critics and audiences alike.
What works in this modern rendition of Cinderella is that it sticks to the simple premise that every child can understand: Girl meets Prince, both fall for one another, girl’s evil family attempts to stop her from marrying him. The film has actors who are true to their characters, with warm-natured performances delivered by the pair of James and Madden. Despite their admirable performances, the standout performance of the film was delivered by Cate Blanchett, portraying the wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Cate Blanchett- a great actress regardless of my opinion- as she just hasn’t worked for me (the upcoming Carol review may well change my mind). Blanchett on her own is a dominating figure when on screen, but the way Blanchett and James play off each other lends an additional level of gravitas to her performance. She is infinitely more domineering playing off of James’ character than when she is on screen alone.
However, it’s not just the relationship between Ella and Lady Tremaine that works so well, but also the interactions between Ella and the Prince, which are very fun and really work within the theme of the story. Ultimately, in terms of characters, all the actors brought their A-game in such a way that they are relatable to both parents and their children yet unique in their own way that the younger generation will remember these characters in the years to come.
The narrative of the story is nothing new, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a simple story that works, and that is all that a classic children’s film can ask for. What does stand out for Cinderella aside from the simplistic story is, well, everything else. This includes the magical costume design, solid score, and the gorgeous cinematography.
First up is the costume design and it is apparent that there has been a lot of work put into the production, not just from a financial standpoint but the time that it must have taken to put together the gowns and dresses worn in the film. To put it simply, it is absolutely gorgeous. From the dress gowns used during the ball to the “rags” worn by Ella, each one of the dresses exudes the passion that went into the making of the clothing and illustrates why costume design should garner an Oscar nominations for Cinderella later this month. I haven’t even talked about that little slipper that Cinderella loses; that glass (actually crystal) Swarovski slipper was a sight to behold and valued by Lily James as something “worth more than her home”. All in all, Swarovski provided 7 million crystals and 100 tiaras for the film, which the film is not shy about showing off.
The best aspect of the film concerned the melding of both the cinematography and that beautiful costume design. The film was not all about bright colours with blue and pink dresses, however. The cinematography accentuated all the bright parts as exponentially luminous, from the sublime dancing ball sequence to the simple grassland shots of Ella riding her horse. When the film moves to the darker portions of the story containing segments focusing on Ella’s living quarters in the attic, there is a distinct sense of grunge and grime that could carry the story forward without any exposition required. Kudos must go to the vision of director Kenneth Branagh, director of photography Haris Zambarloukos and that little chequebook of Disney with their “measly” $95 million budget.
Last but not least, we arrive at the score and the music. Cinderella would not be a Disney film (either animation or live-action) without a great soundtrack and multiple dance sequences that are required for a fairy tale. The score was composed by Patrick Doyle and he does a commendable job knowing just when to allow for rousing tones or milder tunes; more importantly, the dance sequences in the film are very nicely incorporated with the music. This essentially means that the music contains that memorable yet simple, fun factor that enables children to hum and dance, just as the majority of Disney’s iconic filmography contains songs that are widely revered today. Hakuna Matata, everybody!
Cinderella may be a very basic story of redemption, of a girl turning into a woman after multiple tragedies in her life. It is a story that is important for youth, teaching them to strive for greater things and not be let down by unfortunate circumstances. The film is beautifully shot, with costumes to die for and it reaffirms Disney’s decision to remake its animated film catalogue as live-action films for the foreseeable future. Now, we get to wait 2 years for another hotly anticipated live-action conversion: Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson. If Cinderella is any indication, come 2017, we shall be in for a treat.
Cinderella charmed me with a beautiful adaptation that tells its well-known rags-to-riches story in a very straightforward yet elegant manner. Cinderella certainly deserves its grade of B+ (8.4/10)