Some fables are worth re-telling. Cinderella is an adult love story masquerading as entertainment for children.
Yes, I saw it alone, and I offer no apologies. As a young boy in the 1950’s, I was attracted to nearly everything being produced by Walt Disney and his studios. I fell hopelessly in love with Annette Funicello when “The Mickey Mouse Club” first appeared on TV in 1955, and I still vividly recall the heartache I felt when Davy Crockett (1955) died defending the Alamo.
On top of that, how can a movie fan dodge a new film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Blanchette? You knew going into the theater that Mr. Branagh was going to capture the magic associated with the Cinderella story, and could there possibly be a better wicked stepmother than one played by Ms. Blanchette?
Well, let’s begin by saying that Ms. Blanchette is perfectly nasty as she transforms Cinderella into a ridiculed house servant following the death of her beloved father. And while that same man was also Ms. Blanchette’s second husband, the only thing that she really missed about her late spouse was the loss of his income.
While the story has few surprises, the costumes and musical score are magnificent. Everyone, male and female, looks fantastic, and that includes Cinderella’s deranged stepsisters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger).
Once again the Disney Studios find a way to capture the romantic meaning of genuine love. Cinderella was told as a child by her dying mother to never forget to embrace courage and kindness as she matures, and that is something that we would all be better off remembering in a world that seems to be coming unraveled at its seams.
Lily James is really quite good in her role as Cinderella, a young woman both dedicated to the little mice that she feeds in her attic bedroom along with her determination to not succumb to anger, bitterness, and hatred. It was no wonder that the Prince (Richard Madden) fell in love with her the first time they accidently met in the forest.
Madden’s Prince Charming is far more than heir to the throne, and he avoids all of the comical weaknesses displayed by Chris Pine in last year’s Into the Woods. He genuinely cares about his people, and I suspect that the Prince would be challenging both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner concerning raising our Nation’s minimum wage if alive today.
The strength of Disney films comes from the fact that it finds a way to embrace the human heart. Think about how Bambi (1942) dealt with the tragic death of his mother after being shot by a hunter; Pinocchio (1940) leaving his beloved stepfather to try to find a way to become a real boy; a little Dumbo (1941) using his trunk to embrace his mother as they were forced apart in separate cages, or Snow White (1937) dancing on the edge of a permanent coma as she awaited the perfect kiss.
Here, director Branagh allows the camera to focus on the pain associated with the human condition. We all know that parents are going to die, and the audience warmly embraces both Cinderella and the Prince as they wrap their arms around a loving parent who is about to pass into the great beyond.
See this film, as I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.