I grew up in the 70s—no cable TV, no Internet, no big bookstores or e-books you could get hold of in under a minute. We had books of children’s classics, handed down or borrowed from relatives. If we got one as a gift, they were treasured, read and re-read.
Like many children, I did not mind having fairy tales told to me over and over again.
Later on, fairy tales started getting criticized for giving girls false illusions about the world and men. Cinderella got a feminist twist in Ever After with Drew Barrymore, it got cynical and cautionary in Into the Woods with Anna Kendrick playing Cinderella in the movie version. Disney’s Alice and Maleficent shook up versions of the stories they were based on.
But for this year’s Cinderella, Disney and its director Kenneth Branagh chose to stay very close to the 1697 French, Charles Perrault version and the 1950s Disney version.
I was once again a four year old who completely knew how the story would go: the happy ending and triumph of a heroine who never stopped being kind to all manner of creatures even if her world came tumbling down. The other ingredients were there too: mice turning into horses, a pumpkin turning into a carriage, the glass slipper left behind after the stroke of midnight.
Cinderella is the biggest opening of Branagh’s career. It is classic and simple while at the same time wonderful and magical.
Credit also goes to costume designer Sandy Powell who worked hand in hand with production designer Daniel Ferretti. They’ve previously worked on The Aviator (for which they both won Oscars) and Gangs of New York. On a side note, Powell has been nominated 10 times for an Academy Award and has won three times, Ferretti has been nominated nine times and won thrice as well. Talk about a powerhouse team.
Downton Abbey’s Lily James (Lady Rose MacClare) and Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden (Robb Stark) are incredibly charming as Cinderella and her Prince. Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine) is conniving in fabulous couture and Helena Bonham Carter lightens up as the Fairy Godmother.
Disney isn’t stopping here, up next is Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast.
Lily James isn’t stopping too—she’ll be Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with Maleficent’s Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy and Matt Smith (Doctor Who) as Mr. Collins.
Game of Thrones’ Team Lannister will represent—Lena Heady (Cersei) and Charles Dance (Tywin) are likewise in the cast.
While warnings and cynicism about the world we live in are important, they shouldn’t completely take away our capacity to see magic or to dream of a better world or of having a very happy life.
Cinderella isn’t one for surrendering to the way things are: “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.” Indeed, how would things change or how would possibilities be explored if we forgot that?