Overview: The classic fairy tale gets a live action update as Ella perseveres through cruelty and wins the heart of her Prince by being nothing but her true self. 2015, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, rated PG, 105 minutes.
Happily Ever After: Although the story of Cinderella has been recreated, adapted, and written about countless times over the years, the most beloved version remains the 1950 animated Disney classic. Unlike most of the recent live action adaptations Hollywood has cranked out over the last several years that insist on showcasing either a darker, grittier version of a childhood favorite or a twist that tells another side to the story, Cinderella remains faithful to its fairy tale roots. Director Kenneth Branagh updates this Disney favorite not to spin it on its head, but rather to lovingly present it for a new generation to appreciate. Branagh expands the story and enhances one of the most adored Princesses to add depth and modern feminism to the character.
Have Courage and Be Kind: In Cinderella, audiences gain insight into Ella’s life before it was invaded by the dark, cruel cloud of her evil stepmother (fiercely and fabulously portrayed by Cate Blanchett) and catty, dimwitted stepsisters. We learn that Ella tolerates her living conditions in an attempt to fulfill her mother’s wishes to always have courage and be kind. She treats others the way she would want to be treated, and views the world as it should be, not as it is, and this basic foundation is built upon throughout the the film. A whirlwind, love-at-first-sight and one dance romance is given more substance as well, when the Prince (played by Richard Madden, just as dashing and heart-stopping as he is as the King of the North in Game of Thrones), having met Cinderella earlier in the woods, describes her spirit and gentle kindness, rather than her beauty, as the source of his admiration.
Branagh and Screenwriter Chris Weitz have taken a shy, but sweet Disney Princess and infused her with independence, drive, and wisdom. She’s the best female role model I’ve seen on screen in a long time. Lily James brings this familiar, yet feminist version of Cinderella to life with a spunk and genuine charm that’s utterly irresistible. Toward the end of the film, Fairy Godmother explains in her narrative that sometimes the biggest risk one can take in life is to let people see exactly who you are, and Cinderella never shows people, regardless of status or how they treat her, any side of her but the real one. And really, if that isn’t an important message to send to viewers of all ages and genders, I don’t know what is.