Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Branagh's Cinderella - A Modern Fairytale?


There's no denying that Kenneth Branagh's new Disney film is a cinematic masterpiece, full of stunning scenery, breath-taking costumes and stellar acting from the lead Lily James; her stepmother Cate Blanchet and Helena Bonham-Carter playing a wonderfully ditzy Fairy Godmother.

The film remains largely true to the original fairy-tale and so the familiarity holds the attention of the young audience, despite it being probably their first Disney experience without huge-eyed computer animated characters - although they did still cast actresses with alarmingly minuscule waistlines.

The movie has been cleverly marketed to younger girls with the lure of the much anticipated sequel to Frozen, a short 7 minute animation which re-introduces us to Elsa and Anna.  So given the impressionable audience, do we still want our daughters aspiring to this rags-to-riches 'heroine'?

Well, Branagh has gone some way to appease the feminists, but probably not nearly far enough.  The main deviation from the traditional storyline is that Cinderella first meets the Prince in the forest - although of course she has no clue as to his fine breeding.  This meeting as equals, with her in her scullery maid outfit is meant to show us that true love transcends beauty (although that may be easier to believe if she weren't so stunningly attractive even with soot smeared on her face).

The fact that she hankers after this young 'apprentice' not knowing his title, is indeed better than the previous Disney plot line where she toils away in the vague hope that 'someday her prince will come' and whisk her away from her domestic drudgery.

The notion of the ugly sisters is abandoned too, shedding off the idea that kindness and physical beauty are intrinsically connected.

The key message throughout is that 'courage and kindness' will win the day.  So rather than being a feisty modern-day heroine, she gently and quietly overcomes her troubles.  There were plenty of times when I was silently screaming for her courage to outweigh her kindness and tell her step-sisters where to get off.

So, Cinderella's love for 'Kit' who she's met in the forest is pure and untainted by material desires, and that's a step in the right direction.

It is however the Step-Mother that perpetuates the myth that women must be kept by a man.  She marries Ella's widowed father to save her from financial difficulty, and then her first reaction on hearing of his demise is that they'll face ruin.  So, why not...I don't know...get a job?  No, instead she'll try and orchestrate an advantageous marriage of her daughters to keep the wolves from the door.

Still, as much as this film is about love of the romantic kind (and it is impossibly romantic), it's also about familial love.  The deep bond between her and her father is genuinely beautiful, and will ring true to any father returning home to his family after time away.  Her undying love and devotion to the memory of her mother is heart-breaking.  The tender father/son moments too, between the grown-up Prince and the King (played by Derek Jacobi) are not often seen on screen.

Branagh puts flesh on the bones of the traditional tale, making Ella's demise from her perfect life to a down-trodden servant more believable.  He deals with the rawness and tragedy of death more honestly than previous Disney offerings, and he has made 2015's Cinderella a more rounded character.

It's a shame though that most of the audience will probably only remember the beautiful gown and the glass slippers.


52 comments:

  1. We're going to the cinema to see this next week! I can't wait....

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    1. It's a beautiful film, I'm sure you'll love it.

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  2. Oh but what a beautiful gown Liz and those shoes....

    I loved the fairy tale, I cried at one point, not the sad point but a beautiful touching point, tears streaming down my face. I love the points you bring up, I don't want my daughters to grow up thinking that beauty and being demur is the way to a man's heart. I want them feisty, independent and confident in themselves that they don't need a man but an equal to love and cherish.

    But this is their childhood which should be full of dreams and imagination, I guess it's about finding a balance, my two also watch Scooby Doo, they love the Minions and a whole range of other films that balance out a good old romance.

    Let's face it when they get to 16 they'll pretty much know that it ain't gonna happen. I know it doesn't happen like that and yet i still watch these films and love them as for a moment I dream and smile.

    Then I wake up and get on with it all.

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    1. Haha! I know, one minute I was all balled fists, the next I was 'ahhhh isn't it lovely!'

      I think there's nothing wrong with romance, and I do like the changes he's made to the story, I just wish she had been a little less simpering.

      It was an amazing dress though ;)

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  3. oh I am looking forward to this too but i know what you mean about simpering princess types

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    1. It's a really stunning film Becky, I just wish they'd done a bit more with it.

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  4. I'm quite surprised that Disney have changed the storyline so much. I expect many children will come out asking where the ugly sisters were as that is the story they know. When I went to the cinema the other day there were a huge bunch if little girls stumbling through wearing those plastic toy shoes. I guess they will have enjoyed it anyway.

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    1. They still have the step-sisters, it's just that they're not ugly any more! I think that's a good thing.

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  5. Great review Liz and really interesting to read. L is reading Roald Dahl's Cinderella, I think it might be in Revolting Rhymes. It is fab, she totally realises what an idiot the prince is and marries a jam maker instead.

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    1. Thank you. We love Roahl Dahl's one too.

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  6. I wondered about taking LMC to see this, but wasn't sure if she's a bit young (she's not even five yet) I'm just not sure how well it would hold her attention. Might ponder on it some more.

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    1. I have to say, most of the children in the audience were over 6, although if she's familiar with the storyline then maybe she'll follow it fine?

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  7. I was really excited to see this but rather dissapointed in the lack of magic involved in it , think i was expecting more

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    1. We really enjoyed the magic at midnight when everything turned back.

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  8. Oh I can't wait to see this! I've heard great things... and I can't wait to see the Frozen bit as well! Cinderella is my all time favourite story.. the story is what it is... I don't think it needs to change to satisfy the feminists! It's just an old fashioned fairytale :)

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  9. I need to persuade Mr Berice to see this with me - It sounds amazing! Hayden wants to see it too but i don't think its for a nearly 3 year old LOL
    Thanks for sharing hun
    Charlotte x

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  10. So want to go see this am a huge fan,saw a tv programme the other day about it looks so good.

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    1. Oh I missed that, but I did see Lily James interviewed on Johnathon Ross.

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  11. Alas I've been 'told' by Kitty and Ozzy that the Sponge Bob movie is the one we are going to - but this doesn't sound like Kitty and I would enjoy this. We might have to make time for a girls night out :)

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    1. I think Spongebob is next on our list!

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  12. Ooh, I would love to watch this, though not sure if the OH would want to keep me company. Looks really good.

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    1. I actually can see couples going to see this together - it's very romantic!

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  13. We loved it and focussed on the kindness message and how the stepsisters are really mean and unpleasant and nice things happen to Cinderella because she is kind. It's broken up a couple of arguments anyway.

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  14. My daughter is desperate to see this, and I think you have convinced me that I might enjoy it too! Emma (bavariansojourn) (sorry it wouldn't let me sign in! )xx

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    1. Ruby's seen it twice now already - she went with her Granny too!

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  15. Oh what a great review. I love the sound of it, but the boys do not want to see it. I think I will take myself and have some me time over the extended weekend!

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  16. What an incredible cast. Thanks for this review - I've been so busy recently that I've missed a lot of the blurb about the film, so it's good to get a heads-up. I'm going to drag my three-year-old along to see it whether she likes it or not!

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  17. I really want to see this and it sounds great - I love that they've changed the 'ugly' sisters as that was never a good message to promote. Looking forward to watching it.

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    1. Yes, me too, I think that's a great change.

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  18. It sounds like a great film to take young girls too. A great cast too, Kenneth Branagh is a great actor and director.

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    1. A brilliant cast! Helena Bonham Carter and Cate Blanchet especially were brilliant.

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  19. I have seen alot of mixed reviews about this new film so it was interesting to read your fantastic review.
    My Daughter is still too young to appreciate this film but i hope to see it eventually.

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    1. It's still a great film to see, so I hope you get to do so.

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  20. Haha, can't say I think so deeply about any of this stuff... fortunately my girls are not too interested either!

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    1. Not interested in the film or the messages? x

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  21. I am loving the fact that the message has changed it was a plot that if i ma honest was a bit cringeworthy .. but i suppose its a fairytale .. glad its now a more positive message :-)

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  22. I am looking forward to seeing this - though will leave it until it out on DVD, I wasn't sure about it at first but they more I read about it the more I want to see it.

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  23. The shots I've seen of the film make it look beautiful to watch. I'd not really thought about the story and the message it sends before.

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  24. We are excited to go and see this movie , we are die hard disney fans.

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  25. Aww look forward to seeing it will have to wait till it comes out on DVD

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  26. Emmy hasn't seen the previews of this yet but I still can't wait to take her

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  27. I am looking forward to watching it.

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  28. What a great review, so much more in depth than my own...I would never make a film reviewer, I like everything too much! I must admit the only bit that grated on me was the step mother needing a husband to support her.

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  29. I really want to see this, it sounds fantastic! xx

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  30. Id love to see this. Great review x

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