Cinderella: This was a great adaptation of the fairy tale! Well, it followed the storyline of the beloved Disney classic--rather than the original tale, as in Into the Woods. The line about one stepsister threatening to claw the other's eyes out made me think, "Foreshadowing?!" But, no. The most violent and unpleasant this movie was going to get was its display of Lady Tremaine's outrageously abusive cruelty...and her in all her cold, heartless, total ratchet bitchness.
The beginning had the sweet, peaceful, golden serenity of many a romantic British film. (Cinder)ella at least got to enjoy a lot more of her young life this time, with both parents around, than the animated one did. Oh, the sadnesses, though! First her mom, then her dad, then the prince (Kit)'s dad...'twas almost too much to bear. I feared my tears might stain my petticoat (seriously!!) No, for real, it was very, very 'motional.
The "animated real animals," especially the mice, were delightful...though I wonder what made them change Jacques into Jacqueline. But no matter. Big old tubby Gus-Gus stole the show. Obviously they were robbed of the ability to sing, dance, and make dresses, so their role as "Cinderella's funny little furry friends" became simplified. The biggest thing I missed because it WOULD have fit into this live-action version, however, is Bruno the hound dog.
What else did I love? Ella's successful plea for the stag's life! Because the royal hunting party was just out mindlessly "doing what's done," primarily for recreation...certainly not for survival. The fact that she briefly encountered and got to know Prince "Kit" Charming on a meaningful level prior to spending more meaningful time with him at the ball. (Not that I find animated!Cinderella's true love unbelievable, but the elaboration here is especially good for the benefit of those who scoff at the prince falling so quickly for with the beautiful but random girl.)
The dynamic within the castle changed significantly. Derek Jacobi played a great king--not all comedically rotund and bombastic like the animated one, but still with enough good humor (and dat facial hair that I found somewhat reminiscent of King Goofball)--even in the face of his impending death. (*le sob!!*) He believably comes around and changes his mind, insisting that his son wed the mystery girl from the ball. Awww. The power of Cinderella's pure goodness! Now, the character of the Grand Duke...I know him as the scrawny, slightly bumbling, but sincere and noble man from the classic. Here, his role became a shady fellow willing to make dishonest side deals with Tremaine. Always on Kit's side was the newly-introduced character "Captain" character, who knew all along how things ought to be play out, and helped ensure that they did exactly so. (Oh, and I'd remiss to omit the deliriously funny portrait-painter. Nice little addition there!)
I honestly found Lady Tremaine to be even more attractive than Cinderella, but that hardly matters (or is perhaps appropriate), because the victor of the external vs. internal beauty match-up would be clear from light-years away. I'm very sorry that she lost her husband, and that her new one would never love her the way he loved his first wife or his daughter...but there was too little room for sympathy. She made no attempt at deepening her relationship to Cinderella's father, or bonding over their mutual losses; she cared only for the man's wealth. She then made the gentle girl's life a veritable 24/7 hell, deliberately seeking to destroy what was so good and pure and innocent in her because she so resented it. But then, that ending! Wow. "I forgive you." No stronger way to show that Cinderella has triumphed, unequivocally, and without sacrificing who she is. It makes one wonder to where Lady Tremaine whisked her daughters off, when they were apparently never seen again. Did her inability to break Cinderella and turn her into a miserable wretch have any effect on that woman? On her daughters? Ever? Were they capable of change? I'd suspect that the stepsisters would be more pliable in that regard, being younger...and also products of their mother's upbringing. It's no wonder they were such insufferably nasty, selfish, snotty, repulsive brats. Still, I love-love-love the Anastasia/Baker redemption story in the animated sequel and prequel, which also seems to lead to Drizella questioning her mother's ways.
I DID enjoy the stepfamily, actually. Their costumes--always pink for Anastasia and yellow for Drizella, with fun bold patterns, and the shades of chartreuse and green on Lady Tremaine. I really adored their clothing. Of course, they were supposed to look garish and out-of-place in contrast with Cinderella's light, frilly, more countrified and little-girlish dresses and colors. (It was almost like the difference between Capitol citizens and, say, Primrose Everdeen...although Cindy's impressive estate would make the Victor's Village homes look humble.) The stepsisters were fun, really. Their Disney-film names and even corresponding colors stayed, but they chose not to cast actresses "uglier" than Cinderella. Which was a good move, because again, it allows for greater emphasis of Cindy's inner beauty, which should be the deciding factor for the prince. Drizella's still a singer on Lucy Ricardo's level (aka, "bull moose pulling his foot out of the mud"), and Anastasia's portrait-drawing skills are...well, honestly, superior to what most people's would probably be, even with her kind of leisure time to practice. It still wasn't as flattering an image as I'd have liked, either.
The dress-tearing scene I expected to be a bit more violent (as the animated one is a swirling horror show that reduces the entire thing to rags), though it was still shockingly evil. However, the ball itself's a grand spectacle--from the palace to the costumes to the dancing.
Helena made such a wonderful Fairy Godmother that I almost didn't even miss our beloved grandmotherly "Bibbidi-Bobbity-Boo" one. Her transformation into "youth and beauty" from a haggard old crone brought to mind the Witch from Into the Woods. ;) The lovable footmen lizards and coachman goose (yep, most definitely a goose!) underwent highly creative metamorphoses, retaining some of their original species' traits even in human form.
(But Cindy, how is it that you're unacquainted with cantaloupe?!?)
My favorite lines included (possibly paraphrased):
"Just because it's what's done, doesn't mean it's what should be done!" Cindy's an idealist, but how VERY true.
"This is perhaps the biggest risk any of us will take: Being seen as we truly are."
And of course: "Have courage, and be kind." That's a great deal summed up in five simple words.
I very much like the song "Lavender Blue," as well. (Burl Ives! <3)
When I heard that some feminists had denounced and protested this movie, I was...well, maybe "surprised" isn't the right word. I'm absolutely a feminist (or humanist/egalitarian, whatever your preferred term for someone who believes in simple gender equality!), but I can understand that the fairy tales involving more passive, demure heroines are not inherently bad or damaging. Their morals are very bit as valid and important as those of later stories featuring more headstrong, aggressive, independent-minded, or "badass" females. There's no one right way to be a girl; "Cinderella" does not for a moment purport that all women should strive to be just like its heroine. Cinderella is a single individual person. One may perceive "weaknesses" and flaws in her, but that is true of any good character. You can see her as someone who just accepts what life throws at her without a fight or a stand of any kind, slaving away pointlessly for her abusers until she's rescued by a man. Still, she does do what she can to seize the opportunity for happiness when it presents itself. In the pursuit of her dream, she doesn't just toss her hands up and surrender, leaving it to someone else to come along and "save" her. She does take action; it just isn't the "epic badass" kind.
Her ability to remain a kind, sweet, merciful, loving person in spite of her suffering and torment is a testament to tremendous inner strength. A weaker person would have been broken by it--possibly even become a malicious, cruel, embittered monster herself. One could wish for a more proactive role model than Cinderella, yes, but she is not a poor one. Unless you idolize a "Mary Sue," any character you choose is going to have faults one wouldn't want a young girl (or anyone) to emulate. In the end, it's more than obvious that Cinderella & Kit are destined to be the fair, just, righteous, yet merciful rulers any fairy tale or real-world kingdom would desire.
And frankly, every female character doesn't have to suddenly be "the strong, tough, cool, kick-ass girl." Because while those are great traits to have in a well-rounded character and I do tend to love that type, nowadays it eventually turns into the same boring one-dimensional token thing inserted over and over again. Because feminism. Your female audience oftentimes winds up identifying with the more varied male cast anyway. (The mostly-male-with-a-girl-or-two-tossed-in character cast format is commonplace.) We're getting better about the whole bogus idea that female-led or mostly-female casts can only appeal to female audiences, while the opposite appeals to everyone...but 'tis still an issue.
Bottom line: The new ones may be great, but the animated classics are the bomb-diggity-shiznit forever and ever.
"No matter how your heart is grieving,
If you keep on believing,
The dream that you wish
Will come true..."