Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cinderella - The Mad Mammy's Review

Sooooooo, here we are in 2015 and Hollywood have only gone and seen fit to grace us with yet another re-incarnation of that old nugget Cinderella.  Interestingly, in a wee bit of research for this post I discovered the tale of Cinderella is a lot older than I thought.  The original story, Cendrillon, complete with pumpkin, glass slipper and godmother by French author Charles Perrault appeared in 1697.  It was then given a revamp by the brothers Grimm in 1812, their version being called Aschenputtel, which is where we get the English translation of Cinderella from and of course the story was disneyfied in 1950 with the original film.

image of original book cover of cendrillon by charles perrault
The Original Cinderella Tale by
Charles Perrault

I can clearly recall reading the hapless heroine's tale, in my Disney fairytale compendium, as a young girl and wishing I had a fairy godmother!  How handy that would have been.  Other than that there wasn't much to envy about Cinderella's life and I often wondered how her marriage to the Prince worked out. It was much later in life through my combined studies of sociology, psychology and English that I realised the power of our childhood fairytales and how much they set us up with crazy expectations of life and form the basis of so many of our beliefs.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White - all rescued from their various dilemmas by a handsome prince and incidentally all victims of a wicked older female.  Even in 2015 how many women out there are still waiting for "their prince to come?"

Meme of girl telling boy she can't talk to him because he is not a fairytale prince
All Too Often We Don't See The "Princes"
Under Our Noses Because They Are A Lot
Like Us!
It is for this reason I was happy enough for my daughter to have these stories as part of her collection but they were very much balanced out by more modern tales where girls are equal to boys and have a can-do attitude - thank you J.K. for Hermione Granger.

Image of Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
Hermione - Waits For No Prince!

It was interesting then that La-La expressed an interest in going to see the latest version of Cinderella. The Dude, on the other hand, was quite clear that hell could freeze over first before anyone was dragging him along to see it.  So, being presented with the opportunity to attend the cinema with just La-la, I took it and the two girls headed off in the Brisbane heat to the nearest cinema.

As I settled into my seat and mopped the sweat from my brow, I couldn't help wondering if the 2015 version had at least had some modern tweaks.  I had already seen the controversy over the size of Cinderella's waist with Kenneth Brannagh having to deny digital trickery in order to make Lily James look like the human equivalent of a cartoon drawing.  The omens weren't good.

Image of Lily James as Cinderella in Blue Ballgown
And Breathe - Or Maybe Not......

The film opens with Cinderella in happier times, basking in the love and adoration of her parents and we get to see the influence of her mother, who, on her deathbed, tells Cinderella to face life with courage and kindness.  By the time the first thirty minutes have elapsed, Cinders is an orphan left in the servitude of her step-mother and step-sisters.  She would have been better served if her mother had added the words "and kick ass when you have to and don't be anybody's fool."

Meme of cinderella from original animated film saying she is close to losing her shit
Cinders Would Have Been Better Off
With This Attitude

As the film progressed it became clear the 2015 version was simply a faithful remake of Disney's animated classic except with human actors.  There was to be no modern tweaking of the tale, no re-interpretation of the various roles (as with the excellent Maleficent), no depth of character past the cartoonish inspirations of the animated version.  There was to be nothing except a human re-hash of an animated film from the nineteen fifties!  And to be honest you'd wonder why.

Original Movie Poster for Cinderella 1950
The Poster For The Original 1950 Movie

Why would you spend millions making a movie and pass up on the opportunity to give it something more than the original version that was basically a cartoon?  One of the biggest disappointments for me was the script or lack of it.  Poor Richard Madden, who played the prince, was the biggest victim of this aspect of the film.  At times I was waiting for him to finish his line, only to then realise he had. Of course in the absence of a cracking script it is very difficult to achieve depth of character and this is where the film really fell down.  It is a testament to the talent and skill of Cate Blanchett that she delivers a superb performance as the malicious and manipulative stepmother.  Lily James is perfect as the wide-eyed innocent overcoming hardship through courage and kindness i.e. being a sap.

Visually the film is a treat, making full use of modern technology to create a fairytale land.  There are one or two excellent scenes, with Cinderella and the pumpkin's transformation being my favourite. The first dance /  ballroom scene is also beautiful and it must be said the dress almost deserved character status in itself, considering it had more life to it than some of the actual characters!

Image of ballroom scene from cinderella 2015
The Dress - Doing Its Thing

However, my most favourite scene of the film and I feel the only point in the film that had any relevance to modern day values, was the deathbed scene of the king.  In response to his father's death the prince doesn't stand there trying to be stoic but curls up on the bed in the foetal position, such is his grief.  This was a redeeming feature of the film for me as I feel should any boy actually watch the film, at least he will pick up the message that as a boy or man it is okay to express your feelings, especially an emotion as powerful as grief, and not keep it bottled up.

Of course, as we all know, the prince goes on to find Cinderella and make her his princess and it was the closing scene of the film that really sucked for me.  We see Cinders in her wedding dress and in all her doe-eyed "courage and kindness" glory as an unseen female narrator comes in to tell us just how Cinderella managed to overcome, by facing her challenges (abuse!) with courage and kindness and also with the help of a little magic.  Huh?

Bridal scene from Cinderella 2015
And They All Lived Happily Ever After

It's bad enough to condemn another generation of girls to believing if they are thin enough (yes, I'm afraid Cinders is so thin, particularly in the ballgown, you do suspect her appearance was digitally altered), beautiful enough and sappy enough then they too shall snare their prince and all their life problems will be sorted but to add in the magic nonsense is truly a step too far!  I know, I know - it's a freaking fairytale but the sad truth of the matter is the female characters featured in the original stories were actually more empowered than the one in the modern day version.

On a final note, I asked La-La what she thought of it.  "Sad," was the reply.  Enough said.

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