"Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved her father very much..." so begins one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time. Long before Disney created the lovely cartoon princess who became the idealized paragon of all things 'princess' Cinderella was already a great favorite among all children's stories. Her tale of tragic youth, horrible stepmother and sisters, dreams and wishes, and above all, a happily ever after is international and almost every culture has their version of who Cinderella is.
Disney's 2015 remake has gone above and beyond the expectations of the long-awaited film. They took an already loved story and made the fairy tale come to life in a rich and beautiful film that scraps the modern day ideals of 'believe in yourself' or 'make your dreams come true' but rather focuses on the deep moral truths of kindness and courage
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Cinderella and Prince Kit
|Lily James and Richard Madden|
Ella's beautiful, idyllic childhood in her family's country estate comes to a heartbreaking halt when her dear mother becomes ill. Before she dies she tells her daughter the great secret to finding true happiness, "Have courage and always be kind." These words become the cornerstone of Ella's life after her mother's death and especially after father remarries the cruel Lady Tremaine and brings her and idiot daughters to his and Ella's home. All three bring nothing but consternation and endless cruelty to Ella's life which is only made worse when her father dies and she is left alone to care for the family's estate.
Now a servant in her own household, Ella has nothing but her animal friends and her mother's words to get her from one harrowing day to the next. When Lady Tremaine goes to far and pushes her to the limit, Ella runs off to the forest where she meets a handsome hunter, simply named Kit who tells her he works at the palace. Literally enchanted by him, Ella's hopes to see him again, whenever that may be.
Unbeknownst to her, Kit turns out to be the heir presumptive to the throne who is trying to come to terms with his royal heritage. His dying father whom he worships and reveres (and in return loves him dearly) only wants to see Kit married well and an heir produced for the security of the kingdom. Albeit Kit's notions to marry for love, the king plans a great ball for Kit to find a bride are made and the invitation is sent out for eligible young maiden in the kingdom to attend the ball.
Ella, her stepmother and stepsisters are elated at the news and Ella's only notion is to see Kit again, but Lady Tremaine steadfastly refuses to let Ella leave the house. When she mocks and insults Ella for her desire to go as well as destroying her mother's gown, Ella has every opportunity to give into anger and resentment. Instead she holds her tongue and watches as they leave without her. Even in the midst of her grief and sorrow, Ella's kindness is her center-point and is rewarded when an unexpected person arrives and gives her a chance, not for dreams and wishes, but rather for staying true to her mother's words of courage and kindness.
Of course I'm not going to give you the whole story, but a few flicks of a wand brings together the ultimate stuff of fairy tales which lead up to the ultimate happily ever after. What I loved so much about this story was Ella and Kit's devotion to their parents. Ella's remembrance of her parents become her salvation and while Kit and his father may not always see eye to eye on thoughts of marriage, Kit still respects him greatly.
Both Lily James and Richard Madden were exceptional in their roles as the the raggedy waif-turned princess and her handsome prince. Lily had every single aspect one would want in Cinderella and her prettiness was just the icing on the cake. She made a true heroine who rather believed in having a good and moral heart, then instead of believing in herself and only thinking of making her dreams come true. Richard Madden brought a new life and energy to the famed 'prince charming.' Although, charming he was. their was a great deal of depth to him, that oftentimes isn't found in storybook princes. He wasn't just a piece of royal eye-candy, he really had an emotional storyline that made him real and relatable, instead shallow and unattainable.
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Drisella and Anastasia
|Sophie Mcshera, Cate Blanchett, and Holiday Granger|
Lady Tremaine, an evil, conniving and manipulative woman who is only fueled by social climbing and her hatred for Ella. Her daughters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holiday Granger) lazy, idiotic, and downright worthless. All three have nothing better to do than lie around and make Ella's life miserable.
Tremaine's disdain for Ella springs from the love that Ella's father had for her and how he clearly loved his biological daughter more than his new wife and how he still holds his former wife in great love and adoration. Angry at this, Lady Tremaine makes it her crusade to make sure Ella never knows happiness or joy. She humiliates her by turning her into a servant and allows her daughters to harass her every waking moment. She neither defends Ella or gives her a chance to defend herself. She takes advantage of Ella's kind character and tries to make it her weakness and downfall.
Yet, no matter how hard she tries, Lady Tremaine cannot break Ella. She is unaware of the secret truth that Ella's mother revealed to her daughter on her deathbed. She refuses to see Ella's strong sense of duty and loyalty to loved ones even when they're gone. Tremaine's ultimate destruction becomes Ella's well-deserved happy ending and even after all the evil stepmother has done to tear her stepdaughter down, make her unhappy, and give up on life, Ella forgives her and walks away from her stepmother forever.
Cate Blanchett was amazing! I've never seen her in a villainous role before, but she really became the wicked stepmother. She gave a sense of a woman who was once happy, but loss and desperation, which became eventually disappointment made her heartless beast with no capability to understand the human heart and turn a blind eye to the sadness of others. Drisella and Anastasia are the comic relief of the story. They're both as shallow and insipid as the fairy tale stepsisters come and neither one has a clue about actual living or loving, but in the end you see that even they gain redemption in Ella's eyes, even though, they know they don't deserve it.
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The Fairy Godmother
She was only in one scene, but being played by Helena Bonham-Carter, one scene is all one needs. The famed fairy godmother who made absolutely sure that sweet Cinderella made it to the ball is truly a magic confection off wit, sass, and pure love. One can safely say, without the fairy godmother, their would be no princess at the end of the story! The transformation scene of a pumpkin becoming a golden coach, mice becoming snow-white horses, lizards becoming footmen, and of course a torn, treasured gown becoming an elegant dress (worthy of any girl's dreams) was possibly the best scene in the movie.
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"Have courage and always be kind."
The costuming is nothing short of extraordinary, especially Cinderella's ball gown followed by her wedding gown. Everything costume was rich in detail and design from Ella's simple servant outfit to Lady Tremaine and her daughter's outrageous over-the-top dresses. The music was beautiful and had a modern touch that I wasn't expecting, but I loved.
Still the best quality about Cinderella was the simple truths of kindness, courage and ultimate forgiveness that I think young girls need. It's not enough to take on the world with the mindset of being better than everyone else or using the excuse "I'm different, so the world doesn't understand me" mentality, but rather through working hard, creating a good heard and making a better world for others around you.