I don’t usually do movie reviews, but this is my blog and I make the rules.
I just saw the new live action Cinderella, and loved it. It’s a remake of Disney’s animated version, so we still have friendly and remarkably long lived mice, among other familiar elements, but there have been several minor tweaks to improve the story. The songs are largely gone, and some complexities have been added to the plot. As the trailer shows, the ball is not the only time she meets the Prince. The nagging question of Cinderella’s apparently unique foot size has been addressed, with a solution previously used by Tanith Lee in her short story “When the Clock Strikes.” The question of why the glass shoes don’t turn back into everyday objects like everything else did remains unanswered.
Refreshingly unlike a lot of current retellings of fairy tales, there are no attempts at revisionism or irony, though there is still humour, in the excesses of the step-sisters and elsewhere. There are no obvious references to modern life. At the same time, there is a subtle nod to modern concerns of racial equality. Although this is a Renaissance European kingdom, there are a few black and Asian characters. Not many, but a few. With the unfortunate exception of Helena Bonham Carter playing herself as the fairy godmother, the characters and situations are played straight.
Everything is gorgeous to look at, even Cinderella’s attic room, and her ball gown is stunning. In real life it would weigh a ton, but this is the movies, so it floats. Some of the male characters’ snug trousers were also in the eye candy category. The transformations were great, especially the pumpkin (which becomes an amazing coach), and my favourite character was one of the lizard footmen, who was remarkably at ease with his temporary situation.
Disney cheats a bit with emotions, killing off not one, not two, but three parents in the course of the film. However, this gives us a lead couple who share wounds, strength, and courage, and earn the happy ending they get. Yes, it’s still a story of a servant girl rescued by a Prince, but the start and core of the relationship is equals meeting their match. That’s the real magic, and always a good story.