I must admit, although I have lots of love for Disney and have seen many of their movies back in the day, it surprises some of my friends that I've never seen the "Disney princess" kinds of movies. Having grown up with a brother, the Disney films I was raised on were stuff like Lion King, Aladdin and Hercules. That being said, knowing nearly nothing about Cinderella except the big plot points everyone already knows about, I thoroughly enjoyed the new live-action rendition of Cinderella.
I would like to get this out of the way: the movie is extremely charming. The film is such a visual treat as every scene bursts with color much like, maintain a certain sense of "Disney-ness" that you can also see from their animated films. The splendor of the colors of the movie had me smiling all the way through.
And while the visuals are a treat, even better are the characters who are just teeming with personality. The onscreen universe feels full of life thanks to the performances of Lily James (Cinderella), Richard Madden (Prince) and most of all, Cate Blanchett (Stepmother).
For James and Madden who portray Cinderella and the Prince, respectively, there's a certain honest to goodness way about how they play their characters that makes them feel like genuine people instead of characters in a film, and I think that makes them more relatable and believable. James in particular seems to be at her best and most touching when you see her tending to the animals inside their house. It's not exactly Oscar material and there are no scenes I can pick out for either of them where they show off a great deal of complexity of their characters, but since it's a child's movie I feel like they did well enough with how they were written, given that they're pretty straightforward characters.
The true standout performance of the movie is that of Cate Blanchett who portrays the Stepmother. She's not an over-the-top kind of meanie, but she seems perfect as an evil stepmother. There's something very subtle about her that just screams "evil," like particularly in her first scene that even though she looks very elegant and classy, you can tell that she's someone you can't really trust.
She shines most in her haughtiness which is highlighted in the early ways she mistreats Cinderella, like how she purposefully tips a plate over to get Cinderella to pick it up and how she tells her not to eat with them. She is also the only one with real powerful scenes in the film as well, marked by her animosity towards Cinderella in the later parts of the film as she constantly tries to derail Cinderella's plans, but without the sort of subtlety she carried earlier in the film. Cate Blanchett is easily the best performer in this film, impressing with her ability to be both subtle and straightforward, both sly and blunt in her portrayal as the evil stepmother.
It's also quite of note how much personality the minor characters have. In particular, Cinderella's stepsisters provide plenty of comic relief for how tactless and untalented they are, and a scene with a painter will most definitely have you at least giggling, just like the entire theater did when I saw it. These little details about the minor characters just oozing with personality help give the movie and the universe inside it even more life.
I'd also like to point out the costume and set design in the film. The sets are all built so beautifully and feel very appropriate for the setting, as are the costumes. While the story is a fairy tale, I'm glad that none of the costumes seem to over-the-top or excessive. The dresses of the female characters for the ball, in particular, feel fancy but remain looking like something would actually wear in the real world.
One gripe I have with the movie is how some of the lines are repeated to death. Quotes about identity and tradition are repeated so much throughout the movie that it sometimes feels lazy that they couldn't find another way for the characters to say it or draw up a scene where they could have shown them instead. For a child, it's alright, but since most of the people reading this review are already grown-up, you may find its repetitiveness annoying and unnecessary.
All in all, Cinderella retreads familiar territory but looks to win you over with the charm of its characters, colors and plot. It's nothing new or thought-provoking, but it shows that the tale of Cinderella stands the test of time, and can charm even the older audience who are newcomers to the story.
Cinderella score: 7.9/10
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