This is the most Cinderella of all the nine -- wait no, if you count Once Upon a Time's Cinderella episode and Into the Woods, make that eleven -- Cinderella movies/tv series I have seen. That is a very good thing for me because this is my favorite folk tale we're talking about. This one will definitely be a classic.
This Cinderella film, though it claims to be based on the Perrault tale, borrows skillfully from several different sources of the story without feeling choppy:
The Grimm's tale (1800s), the animated film (1950), the Perrault tale (1697) and the ballet.
And the makers did take a few creative liberties with the story too, giving this version its own flavor.
One thing I was very thankful for was that in the marketing and whole of this film, unlike Ever After and Maleficent, they never said "This is how it really happened" or "If you think you know the story, think again." They never implied that there can only be one version of the story and that the rest were to be discarded. They didn't rush through it as though to say, "Oh, you know about this and that so I won't explain it."
Instead, they told the story as though they were telling it for the first time and that made it special. They explained a few things we might have taken for granted when it comes to the tale. For instance, the name Cinderella, and how she became a servant girl. And they executed it very well.
You may have seen in the third trailer that Cinderella meets the Prince before the ball in this version, and I think it worked fairly well. I could tell Ella wasn't merely against animal-hunting but that she was upset at the time and probably wanted something to live well, if not herself.
At the time I wondered what it would mean for the story. If the prince could recognize her, then there was no reason for the slipper test! This is something that's bothered others though -- the prince not being able to recognize Cinderella in other versions except when she was in a royal gown -- and so I could understand why they did it this way.
The emphasis was on her identity, not her appearance and ability to be recognized.
It's the little things that change the perspective of the story entirely.
Overall the story was well told.
Have courage and be kind. It is a very strong theme in this one, reinforced at every opportunity. Some would say it does the film a disservice to mention it as many times as possible. Maybe it wouldn't have been as noticeable if they had omitted one of the uses of the sentence. But it wasn't merely said, thank goodness. There were actions that came with it, and struggles revealing how hard it can be.
They were all well cast and felt real. I was glad they were able to expand on a few of the relationships Ella has in the story.
Ella was sweet and innocent but not boring either. The Prince actually had some time to show his character qualities, unlike the animated film in which he hardly shows up or says anything.
The romance felt the most authentic that I've seen in a long time. Ella was falling in love with a decent person and that was great because there are many versions of the story in which the prince is proud and only loves Ella for her outer beauty. They were attracted to each-other pretty quickly, and not just because of appearances but also because they noticed a similar struggle in the other and wanted to care. It was sweet to watch their relationship deepen.
The stepsisters felt like real people you may have met somewhere before, and I liked that so much. They weren't too crazy or inhuman.
The stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett, was wonderfully acted and was a good villain.
Also, the script was clever and added a lot to the flavor of the story. A line here would make me gasp and grin at how whimsical it sounded, and another would reinforce the time period pleasantly.
Some have said this film is possibly the most beautiful one they have ever seen. I will not go quite so far. Maleficent had even more beautiful visuals than this one.
Having said that, this film is pretty. The most gorgeous part of it though, was the ball.
I almost cried during the ball at how grand it was. In some versions of Cinderella, I'm not very impressed with the ball at all, but this was a ball you wouldn't forget quickly. The music for the dances was pleasant for one. It actually looked like fun to be there, like a place you would have to get a pumpkin to turn into a coach in order to get there, or an event you might beg to go to. The dances actually looked fun. The costumes weren't too crazy and looked like they belonged.
Three things I thought could have been improved:
1. Ella's distracting low cut dresses. It just seemed uncharacteristic of her to wear something like that of her own free will and be comfortable in it.
The next two contain minor spoilers.
2. The transformation of the animals and pumpkin with CGI. They could have used real people for the footmen and driver and not have wasted time on them when the end result ended up looking out of place in the movie and not as good. I did appreciate the nod towards Perrault though, since in the tale there were lizards used for footmen.
3. I felt the movie was trying just a little too much to make us cry. The third time someone died, it was beginning to feel repetitive and lose its power. They could have cut Ella's father's death, as it was the least necessary for the story. He could have just been away all the time so he couldn't know how hard it was for Ella.
Okay spoilers over.
Done by Patrick Doyle, who also did the soundtrack to Brave and quite a few other movies. It was great and wasn't distracting, but it was fitting for the movie. Two songs from the animated film were redone and sung by the actresses for the end credits: A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes and Bibbity Bobbity Boo. They were delightful.
I liked it so much. If you have never seen Cinderella or given the story much thought but are interested, if you like the story, if you like fairy tales, go see this movie and enjoy it if you can. It's going on my Christmas list.
And if you have seen it, what did you think?